“Wait here a moment.”Zack left Rufus outside his door, figuring he ought to check in and see what kind of disaster his office had turned into during his absence. It wouldn’t be the first time if he poked his head in to find bold interns making good use of the usually empty space or the occasional executive and chocobo.The SOLDIER offices were, like most of the other offices on this floor, hardly more than glorified storage closets with appropriate office type furnishings cluttering the inside and a nameplate on the door. Zack’s had that sort of unused look one found in places where the chief resident was rarely ever in residence. There was a desk overflowing as usual with paperwork, most of it marked ‘Urgent’ or ‘Classified’ but nevertheless destined for the trashbin as soon as he had a chance to go through any of it. Everyone knew that anything important meant for Zack ought to be sent up to Sephiroth’s office. A dented file cabinet took up a section of the wall. A small collection of potted plants in the corner, all sporting violently bright flowers, that looked suspiciously like the kind of things the secretaries proudly displayed on their desks after Lover’s Day. The Buster Sword and the rest of Zack’s travel stained, ichor splattered gear had been dumped unceremoniously on the only other chair in the room. The chair behind the desk was occupied by a boy in the uniform of a common soldier, blue eyed and with a head full of spiky blond hair in the same gravity defying style as Zack’s. Shorter, though. He was frowning down at one of the reports spread all over the desk as if it were perfectly natural that he be looking over someone else’s paperwork in someone else’s office. Something cheap from the vending machines in the lobby was poised forgotten in his hand, and he looked up when the door opened without a trace of guilt, only eagerness.“Did you get—” He broke off as Zack marched over to him, attention fixed and a gleam in his eye, and nicked the snack right out of his hand. “Hey!”“That stuff is bad for you anyway,” Zack said piously, and wolfed it down to the accompaniment of the boy’s indignant glare. “Worse ‘n cafeteria food.”“That was my lunch, Zack.”“Was it? That’s pathetic. I’m buying you lunch later,” Zack announced blandly, looking utterly unapologetic. “Real food. You’re too scrawny anyway.” "Am not," the kid muttered."Definitely scrawny." He casually tossed the file down on the desk, much to the other’s sudden alarm.“I’ll take it up later, don’t worry.”The boy looked unconvinced. “But I was supposed to ..”“Crichton was supposed to take it up. He dumped it on you because you haven’t learned how to say no to asswads shirking their own responsibilities.”“He outranks me,” the blond protested in a mumble, flushing hotly.Zack grinned and reached out to muss the soldier’s hair. “Kid, if you do every single thing that everyone tells you to in this place, you’ll end up dead or worse. They’re all snakes looking for a mark to use. You pull your own weight and no one else’s.”“Really? Then I guess I should let you fill out the rest of these then.” Cloud indicated the papers he’d been looking at earlier, covered with neat, precise handwriting that clearly differed from Zack’s own illegible scrawl on the note stuck to its top.Zack’s eyes widened. “Er.”“You’re two weeks behind,” Cloud informed him sweetly. “You’d be five if I hadn’t intervened. But that’s pulling someone else’s weight, isn’t it?”“Traitor," the SOLDIER accused. "And here I was going to pay for lunch.”“You’re going to get demoted.”Zack scowled at the offending paperwork, and then shrugged. "They can't demote me. I’m the only one who knows how to make decent coffee.”“I’m sure they’ll take that into consideration.”“Seph will,” the older man replied in supreme unconcern, dismissing the issue. “Now help me clear some of this crap off, would you?”Cloud did, blinking at the abrupt subject change, and got the hint when Zack was giving the rest of the room a once over, speculative expression clear. “Should I be leaving?”“Probably.” Zack grabbed a few last files out of the considerably smaller mountain and stuffed them inside a drawer. Locked it, after a moment’s consideration. “Chibi ShinRa’s waiting outside.”Cloud made a strangled sort of noise. “Yeah, he’s probably all pissed cos I’m making him wait.”More strangled noises.“Yeah, he’ll probably wonder why the hell you’re in my office when you shouldn’t have security clearance.”Even more strangled noises.“Yeah, he might report you.”Even more strangled noises.“No, I don’t think he’ll be in the mood to sign autographs for adoring fanboys—-OW.”“I’m leaving,” Cloud announced angrily as he stormed over to the door. Zack rubbed his head where the paperweight had impacted. “Stupid lead paperweights,” he muttered. Then, raising his voice, "So, that Wutai place on the corner when your shift is done?"The door slamming shut was his response. Zack grinned, pleased with himself despite the ache in his head. Kids these days were so tempermental.
What the hell is he doing there? Breeding chocobos?.........Urk. Bad, bad mental image.Rufus leaned against the wall as the sound of someone banging noisily around in the office came sailing to him, the door providing no impediment. There were voices too. Someone else in there. Hm.And what sounded ominously like "Chibi Shinra"....Someone was going to get hell for that. Why was he taking so long, anyway? Who was it that he had to throw out of his office? Surely not Sephiroth.The door slammed open abruptly, and he was very, very glad that he had not been standing in its way. Someone in MP uniform stormed out, and Rufus caught a glimpse of startling blue eyes before the other shot him a glare and headed in the opposite direction.He looks like me. Why does he look like me? Well, except for the hair. How utterly impractical...The door slammed shut behind the other. Rufus glanced back at it, glanced at the retreating figure, and wondered belatedly about security clearances and low ranking grunts and this particular level in the building.And decided that he was tired of waiting, and let himself into the office. "Who was that?"
No chocobos this time! Lucky for him. It had taken weeks to clean up all the feathers. Not to mention the fact that the chocobo in question had taken a certain shine to him, and trying to get a large, overly friendly bird with a very sharp beak inside an elevator without losing something precious had been an experience he never wanted to endure again. Definitely not Sephiroth. Sephiroth rarely came down here, prefering the field to an office, even his own opulent appointments, any day. Zack didn’t know what his superior had against really nice, spacious and lavish offices (it was all well and good to resent glorified broom closet type offices like his own, since Zack himself resented them), but Sephiroth’s tastes were not always the tastes of the logically inclined. Just look at his hair. He was forever claiming it was a ridiculous waste of space.Zack was forever reminding him that he’d brought it all on himself by winning a war. What had he been expecting? Tribute in slave boys?In any case, when Seph did happen to be down here, throwing him out of Zack’s place would not have even been an issue, because they were usually not entertaining visitors at that point. Seph came to his second’s office to get away from people, and Zack’s ever present grin answering the door could suddenly look very ominous and make Anywhere Else look very attractive when too many idiots had spent far too much time pestering his General.He hadn’t expected ShinRa Jr. to wait for an invitation. He was not disappointed.Innocent expression at the question. “Him? Just an errand boy,” he said airily. “Why, you know him?”
Just an errand boy? The earlier conversation certainly precluded that.Why does Zack have a penchant for inviting blond haired blue eyed boys back to his his office?He'd thought that his own office was cluttered. This office ... took the word 'cluttered' and levelled it up several dozen times, and gave it new limit breaks.Was that a chocobo feather he spied behind the closet?"You're surely aware--" he paused, looking at the mess in the office, and rephrased himself, "Perhaps you're aware that there've been concerns over a security leak lately. And seeing that MPs typically don't have clearance to these floors..." he shrugged, "People might jump to conclusions."
Because he was starting a harem, of course. Didn’t Rufus pay any attention to what Tseng said?“People usually do anyway.” Offhand, as if he didn’t care, and for the most part he didn’t. There were rumors enough already. A few more would make little difference, and if Rufus felt the need to exact some petty revenge for Zack forcing his company, by all means, let the boy feed the scandal mill. At the end of the day, that was all just hot air, and Zack had stood by Sephiroth’s side when the White General handed a defeated Wutai to the President on a silver platter. There were times when favoritism paid off.Not to mention there’d be just as many rumors about what Rufus had been doing closeted alone with Zack, nevermind some anonymous MP.He also pretended not to have any interest in the VP’s mention of security leaks. My my, but Rufus had been a busy little figurehead, poking about in all sorts of affairs his Daddy probably wouldn’t appreciate. That sort of thing wasn’t common knowledge.“I’m sure the Turks will nail it down, in any case. That being their job.” Zack narrowed his eyes; surely Rufus had no intention of asking SOLDIER to look into it. He knew perfectly well how to play sneak, but that was not his job and not his forte, and not worth compromising what he was already keeping tabs on for Seph. “In any case, you needn’t worry about the kid. He’s loyal to the company.” And probably the only honest person employed here, truth be told. He rummaged through the mess on his desk until he found what he was looking for. Roster files. He set it on the edge of the desk.“Pick your poison. Far left column’s active, next two are near enough I could call one or two back without too much fuss. Don’t pick anyone from the right column, though. They’re dead.”
Rufus narrowed his eyes. Someone, obviously, hadn't been reading his reports. "I wasn't talking about that kind of rumors." He sighed. "To put it bluntly: As far as I'm concerned, I wasn't here and I didn't just see a completely uncleared MP walk out of your office. But if anyone else -- Heidegger -- for example, should pass by, he's very likely to haul your friend up there on the carpet and launch a full scale investigation into just what he was doing here. "And if it's Heidegger, he'll probably end his career just for the kick of it. Whether or not he's honest is irrelevant."He turned his attention to the file. He'd done his part, given his advice, and if it was going to be ignored (as usual), it wasn't him or his friend who was going to get into trouble.Of course, the idea of the Royal Brat doing anyone a favour by ...oh, warning them... is just.. beyond belief.None of the names on the list looked particularly familiar. Although he did recognize a few from the right column. His signatures were on their KIA certificates and medal approval forms. "Anyone you recommend?"
Of course someone hadn’t been reading his reports. Someone’s reports were in a huge pile on his desk, representing about half a month’s worth of information that had reached field postings only as sketchy, mostly unofficial news. Nevertheless, he was not worried about Cloud’s visits being remarked upon as a possible security breach. On the off chance that Heidegger ever even noticed what was going on beneath his nose (no mean feat, with that bird’s nest of a beard) he would just as quickly end up looking the other way. The President himself had signed the clearance forms. When one of his pet weapons wanted something, particularly something of a discrete nature, it was usually as good as granted so long as said weapon continued to deliver results. Sephiroth, with his track record, could have requested the entire staff of the Honeybee to be allowed unrestricted access to his office. Zack had tried asking for this too, out of curiosity, but found his request denied due to conflict of interest. Apparently the Honeybee was busy enough catering to half the execs without adding SOLDIER into the mix. Zack merely mentioned a need for the occasional gopher from the common ranks. Some undecorated NPC whose presence out in the field would not be much missed.The President hadn’t given the security clearance authorization a second glance, no doubt figuring ‘gopher’ might as well have meant ‘intern,’ in that special sense of the word intern that didn’t mean intern at all. So long as there were no more chocobo incidents and that someone, namely Zack, was willing to take responsibility, he didn’t give a damn what or who strolled in and out of the SOLDIER’s office.There was no reason for Rufus to know any of this. The point of it was that few people knew so fewer people would ask questions.The warning was still a nice gesture on the boy ShinRa’s part, even with the tone he used, and assuming that Zack didn’t know damn good and well what sort of risks he was running. One could only imagine that it became ingrained, trying to give commands and somehow persuade everyone around you to forget that you were only a teenager. He let the comment about ‘completely uncleared’ pass. The truth didn’t matter and at the moment was not worth contradicting an already put out Rufus for. “Heidegger’s got enough to worry about,” he said vaguely instead. “And don’t you worry about anyone catching you down here. In light of recent security failures, some of which – “ he grabbed a report from the top of his pile – “regrettably involve SOLDIER forces blah blah blah” – another report – “which yadda yadda investigations pending blah – another report – “complete and full cooperation of all SOLDIER personnel blah blah” – another – “blah gummi moogles blah repair this oversight etcetera etcetera. Therefore,” and he beamed his scary trademark beam at Rufus, tossing aside the papers, “dedicated officers like myself have taken the initiative to offer assistance to the Vice President, especially in the interest of keeping him alive and scowling, to the best of our abilities until the investigations have concluded.” He pulled a blank sheet from another hidden lair of the desk and scribbled down everything he’d just said. “Signed, General Sephiroth…” and he expertly forged the General’s flowing style, “General so-and-so and Marshal whatsisface.” Two more signatures. “There. Perfectly legal, and you can tell everyone that I approached you.”He realized belatedly that the blank paper he’d just written on was the back of a takeout menu, and muttered about taking care of some additional minor details. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.And as for recommendations…..He ran through the list mentally, checking off the completely unacceptable and the ones it would be worth watching chibi ShinRa squirm in the company. Narrowed the list and finally grinned broadly in a way that would have made most people back away slowly. “Oh yeah, I can think of a few.”
[OOC: Not actually up to anything resembling quality RP-ing at the moment. Not that I ever was.]Fascinating.Obviously Heidegger didn't quite have the control over SOLDIER that he thought he did, which meant that Sephiroth was sleeping with the President and his staff had to have the support of the President Himself....No wonder Heidegger was messing with the Turks instead. He suppressed mental amusement at the SOLDIER's ...unique... way of processing paperwork, made a note of the name of the restaurant which had spawned the unfortunate take out menu out of sheer habit reading paperwork and collecting small tidbits of information had become a favorite pasttime during all those dressing down sessions which involved standing for long periods of time in front of the old man's desk, and wondered if he could apply the same to his own paperwork....Not that he hadn't already gotten forging the old man's signature down to an art....He had to include gummi moogles somewhere in his next report. Just to see who actually read those things.He came back to himself to find Zack grinning. And had to force himself not to take a step back. Definitely bitten off more than I can chew. Oh well. Can't be worse than the last time....Can it?"And who would this be?"
Zack’s grin widened as though he’d been waiting to be asked that question. It was unfortunate that most of his preferred backup were still out with the General, as was their wont (and normally Zack’s). Leonhart and Trepe would have been his first choices. Professionals to the core despite their youth and flawless track records, save for Squall’s few infractions involving a certain arch rival who felt himself above regulations. Pity. Seifer and Squall usually came as a matched set and, when they weren’t at each other’s throats, had proven themselves some of the best and brightest talents he’d seen in the forces. He didn’t dare bring the pair of them back to Midgar at the same time, though, and especially not now. Their skills might have assured Vice President his life, but Zack wouldn’t be able to guarantee the structural integrity of the city once one of their inevitable squabbles broke out. And neither of the boys were what one would call brilliant students of diplomacy. An exec’s guard had to be more than an armed body within ShinRa’s corporate atmosphere, he/she would have to be …well, more like a Turk. Dealing with civilians and brass and all the sticky little issues involved in typical Shinra politics that were not your standard problems out on bug hunts in the field.This being said, he would have preferred to call in someone like the grizzled veteran Auron, who would be taking Zack’s customary place as Sephiroth’s second until this business in Midgar was finished. Auron had been a soldier long enough to know how the power games were played within any administration, military or otherwise. He could be trusted to be discreet. He could not, however, be in two places at once, and Zack felt far better knowing that his General had been left in capable hands.Auron’s protégé was a possibility. He was still in Midgar, as far as Zack knew, waiting for the lab results that would make or break his candidacy for SOLDIER. The boy was promising enough, but inexperienced. Erratic in his performances. He’d been a star athlete before he’d been a soldier of any kind, and it showed. He was still far more interested in sports and his princess of a girlfriend than in perfectly executed missions. There wasn’t any possible way he could get Lu called back, either. Spellcasters of her caliber were not to be wasted on inconsequential things like the Heir’s life. Loire and his bunch were off the radar too, as usual in the wrong place at the wrong time whenever someone needed them. Or when Laguna owed Zack money. Beatrix he hadn’t seen for months, which was probably a good thing. She still hadn’t forgiven him for the velvet handcuff and cowboy chaps incident. Or the bourbon ball incident. Or the-- …..honestly. What was it with women and grudges? He’d said he was sorry, and so had the Honeybee girl wearing his uniform. There were others he could have picked. Better records. Older. But one had to admit, babysitting duty wasn’t the kind of job a person would jump at, especially when the ‘baby’ was Rufus Shinra, so he ought to match the punishment to those who deserved it. Zell Dincht and Irvine Kinneas. Stationed not more than a hop, skip and a jump away, and enough minor infractions on their records to make their superiors happy to hand them off to Zack with only the slightest prompting. Zack knew them both; they were good boys and good soldiers. Just not at the same time. Or with frequent periods of unflattering behavior between their bouts of commendable professionalism. Zell had a short fuse and a loud mouth and Irvine hit on anything that moved. They had both survived basic training in the same squad as Squall and Seifer, which was saying something. Both had been promoted and just as quickly demoted over little things like failing to follow protocol (Zell, running ahead to take out a monster and getting laid up in the hospital for a week because of it) and Pissing Off the Captain By Macking On His Wife (Irvine, for macking on the captain’s wife). Irvine was also a crackshot of the genius variety and Zell one of the few people to have bested Zack in unarmed combat. Rufus, he knew, would inevitably hate them.They would work out just fine.
[OOC: I broke the word buffer again It wouldn't let me finish! Here's the rest.]“These two right here.” He dug up some irrelevant report with their names and handed it over; Rufus could look up their complete files and throw his inevitable tantrum about their unsuitability on his own time. “I’ll have them here in the next few days.” Or, rather, he’d have them here as soon as he could get Cloud to finish doing the paperwork required for their transfer. For some reason there were less than ten people in the world who could read Zack’s handwriting on his reports, and the necessary bureaucrats in charge of transfers were not among their number. He winked at the kid before Rufus left the office, just because he could. “Don’t you worry, boyo. We’ll take good care of you ‘til your Turks get their act back together.”