Ghosts of the Past, Phantoms of the Future Chapter 2
Stocks, Bonds, and Memories
By Janet Monstwillo
No other unit of measurement is quite like time. Time is experienced; yet while it is experienced, time is perceived. The judgment of how far the sun moved in its daily routine was considered the way to make time become non-arbitrary.
A second at the dentists office can be agony eternal compared to the gone-in-a-flash feeling surrounding an hour or two of lovemaking. In some ways, the perception of the two experiences skews the time involved in measuring them. Can time really be an accurate unit, to measure ones life by?
The year succeeding the destruction of Meteor had been delightful for Yuffie. A little late blooming had filled out her figure a bit; she ditched the boyish haircut along with a bit of her self-centered façade. Giving her father about half of her mastered materia supply, she had lived well off the profits of the bit she kept for herself.
So Ive got about half a mil invested in this new business in Junon, the ninja said lightly to the bartender, and now I just cant wait til Im legal so I can get myself a real man.
Oh really. Your money isnt attracting them now?
Well... Her brown eyes trailed out the window while she sipped her drink thoughtfully. My dad kind of threatens to castrate them with katana if they come within ten feet of me. Her pretty face contorted into a scowl. And the damn man has got spies everywhere!
The bartender suppressed a smile. Sounds rather protective. I guess its for your own good.
Not when he hired an ex-Turk to follow me. The most incompetent ex-Turk, who happens to be more interested in keeping my body for himself than preserving my... Yuffies voice deepened as she went into an imitation of her father. ...dignity and honor as future Lady of the Pagoda.
So you spend your days eluding Reno, Im assuming.
She tossed back her hair, now shoulder-length, and rolled her eyes. Yes. Its unbelievably boring. Cocking an eyebrow, she held up her glass. There isnt a chance you could spike this ginger ale, is there, Tifa?
The brunette placed her hands on her hips. Even if I thought your scrawny butt could handle a shot of something hard in that drink, common sense tells me no way.
Because Im only seventeen?
Of course not. A wry grin touched her lips. Yuffie, dont you see that it would be exactly the position Reno would want to get you in?
A knowing look came over her face. Right...
Assuming that he really cares about your body at all.
Following Tifas gaze across the bar, Yuffie saw that it rested on a booth that contained a rumpled man with red hair. He had a drink in one hand and his chin cradled in the other. I can hear him snoring from here!
I see a little drool running out of his mouth, too. Escape while you still can.
The teen grinned and nodded, heading towards the door. Oh wait. How much was the
Dont worry about it.
But Im rich now!
Try to pay me and Ill wake up Reno.
Tifa shook her head as the small girl darted out the door. Picking up the glass, she headed back and handed it to her one employee: the dishwashing machine. Barret had told her, Tifa, you jus fucking crazy if you think you can run a bar by youself! She had ignored his colorful language and his admonition; after all, did it really matter what the man thought if he wasnt going to be around to see her, anyway?
Thats how it ended up with all of them. The Great Avalanche, she scoffed to herself as she remembered how they had just disbanded. Its not like Tifa hadnt expected to part ways with some of them, but she had always thought that...
I always thought that someone would be here with me. She sighed. It wasnt a specific person, necessarily; she had been so sure that Barret would have stayed in Kalm with Marlene, because the little girl loved the town. Green grass, cool breezes, and a nearby ocean were definitely not things that could be found in North Corel. But soon after she had established her bar...
The others left, and so did Barret.
That left one person for her. The one that she was with when the group all went to find what they were fighting for. I fought for revenge...and Cloud. Then I asked him to stay with me...
He said no.
Were not storybook characters. There wasnt going to instantly be a happy ending. I dont know what I feel for Cloud, but I dont think that really matters. Hes all I had left. So I asked him to stay with me...
He said no.
Tifa walked over to clean a table where a couple of customers had enjoyed some of her famous cooking. She pocketed a meager tip and started placing the dirty dishes on a tray. So he went, and that was it. I was left in Kalm, by myself, with my own life. Its not too bad. I run a successful business, and Im a well-respected member of the community. I dont need Cloud or Barret here, though I do miss them. They were really good friends. Maybe Cloud just didnt stay because he thought Barret would always be here, but he was wrong. He would have seen that if he had ever come back to visit me, after that one time.
Barret had to go back to Corel though...he had an obligation to his hometown, at least in his mind. I guess I was wrong in thinking that Cloud didnt have any obligations...he just doesnt have one to me, she thought bitterly.
Oddly enough, the only member of Avalanche that Tifa saw on a regular basis was Yuffie. Even though the girl spent a lot of time in Wutai with her father, her excursions to Kalm were even more frequent than her trips to Costa Del Sol or even the Gold Saucer. A realization hit Tifa right then. I must be Yuffies best friend.
An odd thought started tugging at her mind, but she brushed it aside as she reached for the last thing on the table, a wine glass. However, it refused to be denied and surfaced with the intensity of a mallet to the skull. Yuffie must then be my best friend.
Startled, Tifa dropped the glass and it shattered to pieces on the floor.
The year had been short but sweet for Yuffie; for Tifa...well...it had been rather lengthy.
* * * * * *
This is what Midgar needed, right? A bit of leadership, some rebuilding, et cetera, et cetera... Reeve put his head in his hands. Then why do I feel like all of the excuses are truly a pile of bullshit?
He set down the letter he had been reading. A piece of correspondence from Barret had been a pleasant surprise, at first. Even though Shinra had seemingly disappeared off the face of the Planet, a new company appeared at once to take things over. It was based in Junon, and had many important investors, including Yuffie of all people.
Reeve had been asked to join the executive board, but he was wary of the whole situation. He had become part of the company on a tentative basis. Things were going well so far, at least he had thought so...
If only I wasnt so stupid as to let everything important fall out of my hands.
He had signed the paperwork giving his okay on the restoration of the plates of Midgar. The excavation and rebuilding of Sector 7 was fine by him, too. When push comes to shove though, humanity is never improved after a disaster, even one like Meteor. The corporates who had begun Junon Energistics, or J.E., wanted to make a profit just like Shinra.
Perhaps they were even worse than the beginnings of Shinra. While Shinra began as a simple energy provider in a peaceful, though technologically inept, Planet...
J.E.s founders always knew that they were taking advantage of areas where disaster had struck. Sure, they offered aid to these people, but now... Many places were now under huge suffocating contracts. Local volunteers who had avidly participated in reconstruction were now being used to build power plants. Power plants which Reeve had no idea about.
Reeve had held the audacious belief that his presence in the company would prevent anything shady from going on behind the scenes. In fact, they had just been using him as a front. They pass the propaganda on to me first, then allow me to tell it to the people. In the end, I come out looking like the liar. I will be their fall guy if and when the shit hits the fan.
Many little problems had popped up, which Reeve had ignored. People do make mistakes, and this company was nowhere near as experienced as Shinra. He had thought that was a good thing...until now.
The men at J.E. werent really as inexperienced as Reeve had assumed. The letter from Barret had locked things up in his mind.
Barret, always wary of the corporate way of doing things, had not allowed any J.E. men to do a thing in North Corel. Under the burly mans supervision, the town had managed to build itself up pretty nicely. Slow and sure went the construction of a new Corel, but it was built by the hands of all its citizens, unaided by promises of technology and protection from J.E.
However, Barrets opinions did not matter to Dio, and the Gold Saucer sent for many workers from the new company. Soon, these workers were trying to bully people from Corel into doing some work on the tram running up to the amusement park.
The townspeople refused; soon after, Barret had organized a protest of J.E. Volunteers picketed outside of the tram station, sit-ins blocking the station were held, and one of Barrets good friends was the leader of them all. Jeather was his young and enigmatic Lieutenant Mayor. He would bring food and drink out to the protestors, sometimes taking out a bullhorn and leading them in chants.
This had pretty much angered the executive board at J.E., but the situation seemed to be out of their hands. Dio didnt own the land that the tram station was on; it belonged to the town of North Corel, who had allowed him to build there in hopes that it would help the economy. There was no legal way to get the people to leave, as long as the town government was encouraging their actions.
Reeves colleagues had begged him to try to talk some sense into the fool mayor of Corel, but the matter was truly out of his hands. Theres no way in hell I could ever talk sense into Barret, even if it were a case where he was wrong. That was Cloud's department.
Something was now up in Corel, however. Reeve had been surprised to hear that the town had undergone a sudden change of heart and stopped the protests, but he figured that it could have happened. The letter had changed all of those reassuring thoughts though.
Jeather and a few other protesters had been killed during a sit-in five days prior to the date on the letter. A tall man...dark haired, green-eyed...carrying what seemed to be a Masamune blade...accompanied by several men in dark blue uniforms...had savagely killed all the protestors. The most peculiar thing was the amount of deaths from injuries.
Barret said that curative materia would not work on their injuries. Many of the people simply bled to death from multiple wounds.
The man with the gun-arm had run down to the station from his office as soon as he heard the commotion. Barret watched in fury as the green-eyed man ran his sword right through Jeather.
I watched that bastard kill my best friend, Reeve read, and he looked at me with these fucking eerie-ass eyes that were glowing Mako green. He said to me, Barret Wallace, you should stop it with these infantile efforts to Save the Planet already.
I aimed my gun-arm at him and yelled That aint none of yalls business!
Im just a friend. Then the bastard winked at me and I got so pissed I casted Fire on him. The flames wrapped around him good and I thought his hair was gonna catch on fire.
The spell died down though, and the guy was untouched.
He had the balls to mock me. You should know by now, Barret, that it takes more than that to hurt me.
I yelled some cuss words at im then I aimed at him with my arm. All you damn cor-por-ations are the same! Stealing from the Planet, trying to kill everybody! And I shot and shot and shot at him. I brought up a nice dust cloud. (Ya know how Corel is.)
When the air cleared and I could finally see, he was gone. There was no trace of him leaving, not even footprints. No living person in Corel, sides me, even got a look at the guy.
I know you a good man, Reeve, but if I find out this is your companys doing...Im coming after all yas...even you. Try to find out what is up if you can.
If nothing else, quit the company, Reeve.
He put down the letter yet again and massaged his temples. He wondered if there was a chance that the mysteriously invincible man had originated at J.E. The only question that followed this speculation was how it could come to pass. There was no scientific lab in the Junon building.
They said that they had stayed away from the Shinra building in Midgar...and all the other labs in the world. Reeve could have slapped himself for how stupid he had been. I worked for Shinra...I of all people should know...power-hungry men lie. He thought about the latest bit of injustice that had been brought upon the town of Corel. They lie, and they destroy anything that stands in their way.
Reeve walked over to his closet and brought out a figure wrapped in plastic. Tearing off the cover, he revealed a large white moogle. Reaching farther into the closet, he brought out a large black case. He smiled as he blew the dust off the lid and opened it up. Inside, fitted into protective foam, was a mechanical black cat. Next to it was a complex remote control.
The moogle would be too big for the job that Reeve needed, but Cait Sith himself would work out just fine. He turned on the Artificial Intelligence system, watching in delight as the robots eyes blinked open.
Report stats, Cait Sith.
The cat adjusted its crown before continuing. All systems are in perfect working order. One question though... Where th heck is my moogle?
Hes staying behind. I have a job for you. Reeve pointed to the air duct. I need you to spy...
The robot rolled its eyes. Again? Cant you ever find out anything for yourself?
He pointed to the air duct again. I made a disk for you of the buildings layout. Find the presidents office and record four hours worth of conversations, okay? Reeve stuck the disk in a slot in the back of the cat.
Cait Sith crawled up the wall to the duct, removing the cover. See ya in a bit.
Dont make a sound, warned Reeve.
Holding a paw to its mouth, the cat nodded and made exaggerated tiptoe steps into the duct, replacing the cover behind him.
I hope Im not making a fatal error here, thought Reeve as he attempted to tackle some of the paperwork from his desks In pile.
* * * * * *
Damn this Kisaragi job muttered Reno to himself. It was bad enough that the brat lured me into a bar...she knows my weakness...but then I fell asleep. And that damn Lockhart chick...dropping that glass.
He mimicked Tifas voice. Well...I dont know when Yuffie left. Tee hee!
I have a pounding headache, and if I leave this town without Yuffie or she without me, I lose my job. He thought about Rude and Elena, who had gotten jobs at the J.E. company in Junon. And I thought I was the smart one, getting the cushy job. But no, whenever the girls in Wutai, I get to be kicked and punched at by all the damn villages ninjas-in-training.
Reno really was an idiot. His contract lasted for nearly nine months more. Im basically chained to Godo until his daughters eighteen. He sighed and started heading towards Kalms measly materia shop, doubting he would find Yuffie. After all, she visited the town at least once a week, so why would she need to buy materia there?
However, as he walked in the door, a familiar voice greeted his ears.
What?! This Master-All materia is worth 1.4 million gil, not 800,000! Yuffie glanced over to see Reno standing in the doorway, smirking. Oh great. This day is turning out to suck royally. I go to sell some materia, thought I got rid of you...and this stupid clerk thinks Im a moron. Her eyes narrowed. Plus, there you are standing in the door. Now I cant go to the Gold Saucer.
Why not, kid? Your dad says you can go wherever you want. Thats why I was hired to tag along.
Because everyone in the Gold Saucer is afraid of you! I cant go mingle like a normal human being because they want to be as far away from you as possible. She walked towards him, leaving the blue materia orb on the counter. Makes sense to me.
Duh. Thats why your dad picked me.
My dad picked you cause hes an idiot!
Reno laughed derisively. Well that matter is beside the point.
You cant insult my dad! she squealed.
He patted her on the head, then suddenly raised his gun, aiming it at the clerk.
Are you insane, Reno?
Shut up. Whered you leave your materia?
She began to turn around. On the count I see a trembling clerk...but... Hey! Whered it go?
Empty your pockets, buddy.
The clerk glared at Reno.
He sighed impatiently. Look, empty your pockets or I empty the contents of the gun into your head. Either way, I have to get the materia back for her.
Still glaring, he pulled out the blue orb and tossed it back on the counter.
Yuffie snatched it up. I wanna talk to your manager...
I pushed the alarm button for the cops, smirked the clerk.
Shit, we gotta get out of here, kid, said Reno.
He tried to steal from me! Let go...!
Reno had her by the arm, dragging her towards the door. Get over it. I dont want to be in jail.
Taking her free arm, she began to whack him over the top of the head with the blunt end of her Conformer. I said Suddenly, she heard some sirens. They grew steadily nearer.
Cmon, he said, grabbing her arm once more. Were going to your friends bar again.
Yuffie meekly followed him, pouting and glaring at the clerk of the materia shop. I wont forget this, you jerk!
After a few minutes of running, they came to the street Tifas bar was on. A little ways ahead of them, someone was approaching the doorway.
Oh my gawd! exclaimed Yuffie.
What is it now?
We cant go in there now, she replied. Thats Cloud!
So? Reno looked at her, annoyed. We gotta get out of the open, or the cops will get to us. I doubt theyll believe anything I have to say to them.
She turned and began walking off, away from the bar. Fine. You go interrupt them, and Ill go get my chocobo. Im going to Junon.
He growled and followed her. Get your ass in gear then, if you want to skip town.
Yuffie glanced back to the bar just in time to see Cloud walking inside. Boy, is Tifa gonna be surprised, she thought as she giggled.
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