Shinra Inc. And Cults
By: Jason Tandro

Rufus walked down the hallways of the once familiar Shinra Tower. When he had owned the building everything seemed bright and cheery with only the occasional monster outbreak or haunting to ruin the fun. Now that he was a mere employee, he noticed the miserable conditions, the drab d├ęcor and the consistent smell of something slightly foul. The kind of malodorous aroma that would smell like a tasty challenging concoction in a restaurant but as the source of the odor was unverified it tickled his olfactory glands with the urge to expel his breakfast.

He found himself at his office on the 69th Floor, an impressively sized room offered to him out of a desire from Reeve to not hurt his pride. He set his box of office knick-knacks down on the large wooden desk, took a moment to admire the view of the city outside his office window and sighed. Perhaps this wouldn't be terrible. Maybe he could make it work. After all it had been his idea. He would just suck it up and keep his nose to the grindstone.

Then his secretary brought in two giant folders worth of paperwork.

=SI&=

"What were you expecting?" Reeve asked, when Rufus came to his office to complain.

"I was kind of expecting to just be put on salary and no do any real work. Like Palmer, only people love me," Rufus explained.

"And what exactly gave you that idea?" Reeve rubbed his chin out of equal parts curiosity and irritation - a well-rehearsed emotion from serving under Rufus for years.

"I don't know, I figured it'd be like a buddy comedy. Mr. Boring and the Super Fun Dude. I even wrote us theme music," Rufus said. And then with a tune picked up clearly out of nowhere he began to sing:

Oh he's a boring old bore

And he's a super fun dude

It's Mr. Boring and the

Super Fun Dude!

"That was beautiful, Rufus. But I'm not going to let you stick around if you won't contribute anything," Reeve said. "You're not really cut out for office work, but perhaps there is something we could get you involved in. What do you do for fun?"

"I used to invade sovereign nations for their resources and make unreasonable demands of my underlings," Rufus said.

"Okay, what do you do for fun when you're not at work," Reeve continued, pushing right past the potential tie-up.

"Well I was pretty big into online gaming for a while. And video games in general," Rufus said.

"We now have an app development branch as you well know. Perhaps you get in on the ground floor at designing a video game?" Reeve offered.

"Eh, I couldn't do that for a living. Busman's holiday, you know," Rufus replied.

"You're pretty outgoing, generally likeable when you aren't being unspeakably evil. Perhaps you could look into Sales or Marketing. Both are far more exciting than this directorial stuff, I assure you," Reeve suggested. "And if you're still dead set on doing evil things I could get you a job in the Turks."

"Eh I did the Turks shtick. You'd be surprised how boring it gets."

"I can only imagine with you in charge."

Rufus brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Well, let me take today and look around. Maybe there is something here that I could do."

"That's the spirit!" Reeve said, being encouraging with one hand and preparing for his inevitable failure with the other.

=SI&=

Reeve didn't hear anything out of Rufus for the remainder of the day, nor did he see him at any point after work. While he assumes that meant that Rufus had not yet found his calling the fact that Rufus had not come back at any point complaining was a good sign. It was only when he woke up the next morning to go to work and saw Rufus wearing a black buttoned down coat with a white collar standing atop the fountain did he begin to suspect something was amiss.

"SINNERS!" Rufus shouted. "You're a sinner! And you're a sinner! Everybody's a sinner!"

Scarlet walked down the road and moved over to Reeve. "Do you wanna explain that one?"

"I told him to find a career path that let him do what he loved to do. He combined being in public, being evil and most importantly not doing any real work and thus has, I assume, started a cult," Reeve said.

"Cool. Wanna go do real work while we wait for this thing to blow over- oh too late he saw us."

Rufus leapt down from the fountain and Reeve couldn't help but notice he was wearing the same fake beard from earlier. [Author's Note: See Shinra Inc. And AR Games]

"Hey Reeve!" Rufus said, as if nothing about his present appearance or most recent actions were in any way unusual.

"Hey Rufus," Reeve replied cordially. Scarlet favored him with a slight wave.

"I started a cult," Rufus explained.

"Yes, I see that. How exactly does this fit into your plan to work for Shinra?"

"It supplants it," Rufus explained. "You see I realized that I didn't want to come back to work, I just wanted a steady income and people to boss around. Enter the cult thing. People can join for a one-time fee of 75 gil, but what they don't realize is that when they join the cult they're also signing over to me their Power of Attorney."

"Uh huh. And how is that going so far?"

"Well I just started, so it's slow going. I did sign up Palmer though. Apparently he got bored of the Church of Bob and decided to test mine cult out," Rufus grinned. "He's adorable talking about sermons and stuff. He thinks it's legitimate."

"What's your end-game here?" Scarlet asked. "Cults are fickle and hard to manage."

"No they're not, they're easy. I'll convince everybody that everything wrong in their life is wrong because God doesn't love them because they're not charitable enough. Then I'll have them send me money. It's called the 'Prosperity Gospel'. I'll also get them together once a week and start spouting inane gibberish while pretending to heal their afflictions."

"And what will you actually be doing?" Reeve asked, concerned.

"I'll have them drink a 'magic potion' laced with LSD. Seriously man do you not know how cults work?" Rufus smirked arrogantly. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go exploit the weak-willed and emotionally fragile."

Rufus walked back towards the fountain. Scarlet looked up towards Reeve with an annoyed expression.

"Yeah, let's just ride this one out. He needs to fail by himself," Reeve suggested.

=SI&=

But he didn't fail. Rufus had discovered the age of trick of religions big and small - grandiose promises coupled with hints at social elitism by being a member. And the people flocked to it. By the end of the first week of calling everybody in sight a sinner and offering promises of redemption and exaltation, he had roped in his first 200 members.

"The tricky thing I have to write a holy book now," Rufus complained, downing a shot.

He and Reeve had made a pact to start going to the pub after work in an attempt to mend their friendship, which was suffering the strains of Reeve not only having ousted him from his position but also now being his boss. To his credit, when the work day was over Rufus was fairly easy-come, easy-go, but only to an extent. That's what the liquor was for.

Palmer and Heidegger joined them for the evening. Heidegger even put some of his money into the cult because he couldn't wait to see where this was going. Palmer finished a flagon of some dark ale and decided it was time he offer his expertise.

"The Church of Bob didn't have a holy book," Palmer said. "Well it did but it was really just a bunch of cut and pasted pamphlets from various world religions."

"I read through it once," Heidegger added, finishing slightly behind Palmer. "It went straight from a guide to centering my chakra into the best sex position for demonic orgies."

"Out of curiosity what was it?" Reeve asked, slightly drunk and taking a night off from injecting sanity into Rufus's world.

"Let's just say that a man of my stature is unable to recreate it," Heidegger said.

"So I can just blatantly plagiarize existing religions, add my own kinks and call it a great spiritual revelation?" Rufus asked.

"Basically," Palmer said. "You should come up with an excuse for it though. Like saying it was a re-translation of works that you knew would get corrupted."

"Bible fanfiction," Reeve shrugged. "I'm actually fascinated that you are pulling this off. What the hell, consider me a part of the cult."

Reeve forked over a hundred gil note. Rufus didn't bother to give him any change.

"You're on your way to Enlightenment, my friend," Rufus smirked.

"Nah," Reeve said, tipping back another bottle. "I'm with Heidegger on this one. I just want a front row seat."

=SI&=

The first Sunday of the new church arrived, and Rufus had finally managed to finish his "holy book", which contained a few choice passages from Rufus's childhood faith and several carefully reworded excerpts from self-help books. The last few pages were written by Rufus himself and to sum up their overarching message in a sentence: Money is evil so give it to me.

Rufus had chosen a small unused building in Sector 3 as his church. Between renting the time-worn structure that had at one point been a factory and printing copies of his new and improved bible, which he dubbed The Gospel According To Rufus, he had already blown through the money given to him by his members and even gone into his pocket a bit. He was in the red so far but was banking on future success. All that had to happen was for first sermon to go well and the word would spread.

He took to the podium and looked out on the masses, preparing to deliver his first message to the crowd. This was it. The start of his new religion.

=SI&=

"So, what happened?" Scarlet asked when Reeve returned from dropping Rufus off at the medical wing of the Shinra Tower.

"Well he gets up to deliver his sermon and falls right through the floor. Apparently the building he bought was long since condemned and literally falling apart," Reeve said.

"Oh that's a shame," Scarlet shrugged. "What about his followers?"

"Dead," Reeve said simply.

"Dead?" Scarlet asked for clarification.

"Dead," Reeve reaffirmed. "You see Rufus was the lucky one. Heidegger and I were too in a way. You see we rushed over to help him when the roof started to cave in. The massive pipes that used to handle Mako begin to crumple under the weight of it all and they come down too. The crowd has nowhere to run since the doors have already been blocked by a falling pipe. Heidegger and I are able to jump down into the hole and Palmer had the sense to take shelter in a thick steel refuse bin. A few others made it out the window but for the most part they all got crushed by the falling pipes and ceiling."

"That's pretty horrible," Scarlet said, again with all the concern of somebody being told they've received an easily paid parking ticket.

"Yeah, Rufus's religion is finished. He said he isn't going to try and start from the ground up again. Of course a good chunk of that ground is lodged in his forehead," Reeve laughed at his own stupid joke. "I wonder if his book will sell though."

"You know with all that happened to him, you could say it was divine intervention," Scarlet offered. "Maybe if there is a God, Rufus pissed him off."

"If he hasn't tried to kill him before now he's not going to," Reeve added. "I think this just boils down to Rufus being incompetent and cheap."

"If that isn't the perfect metaphor for this company, I don't know what is," Scarlet replied.