Scene 1

Midgar Lights

The motorcycle left a trail of mako smoke as it blazed up Midgar Express Lane number 4. In its greenish wake, a dozen cars speeded after it. A traffic light flashed crimson but neither the rider of the bike nor his pursuers even slowed down. Other vehicles emitted hooks in protest, sounds that were soon lost as the light burned mako-green and traffic resumed.

Fumes burned his nose as Sephiroth guided the motorcycle through a narrow two-lane. The General pushed his bike to greater speeds. Such was that speed that, unfortunately, his shades flipped off his head, revealing a pair of stunning lifestream-green eyes. Sephiroth cursed. That was his favorite pair. Silver hair swirled like melted stars as the general cast a glance over his shoulder.

The shades hit a man in a car behind him right between the eyes just as he was about to snap a picture. He dropped the camera and it shattered beneath the tires of car in the opposite lane. Sephiroth laughed, pale face highlighted by the blue light coming from the Honey Bee Inn. Then his head spun back around as another man took aim for another picture.

One more damn flash and I'll—Sephiroth's left hand stole to the hilt of Masamune. Just touching her gave him a measure of calm though he longed to whirl the bike around and drive the long blade though the heart of the nearest paparazzi. Angrily, he tore his hand away. It wouldn't do to escape one lengthy litigation only to enter another.

All along the many highways and byways they hunted him, relentless in their hunger, merciless in their pictures. For one as anti-social as Sephiroth, this glorified status was grating on his nerves. It seemed a cruel fate that would thrust him into the limelight. Fate always loved to make him a chew toy, though, he thought as the SOLDIER led the chase down another street.

As with almost everything, he was skilled with handling the vehicle. When the paparazzi thought to surround him, Sephiroth took the bike to the air and flipped it over the car in his direct path. A dramatic gesture and not one he'd normally adhere to, but it did get the job done. The paparazzi gasped and cursed behind him but the General just revved his bike up and sent it in the direction of home.

Home. What a farce that was. Home was not meant for one such as himself. Home was a place where people belonged. Being shipped from apartment to apartment from various points in the city and then various tents in places like the mountains ranges of Nibel he could not attachment to any place. Home also implied the people one connected with—and his current social circle was very slim indeed. Sephiroth simply could not relate others very well, preferring solitude and silence but both were rare indeed.

Eager to be free of the black thoughts as he was to be of the paparazzi, Sephiroth pushed the motorcycle to the limits of her speed. His long trench coat bellowed out behind him like the night sky without the taint of mako pollution. As he took a turn, the SOLDIER almost crashed headlong into a Shinra truck. Only his lightning quick reflexes spared him from being a stain on the vehicle's windshield.

And that brief blink at death didn't faze the General. Sephiroth had faced his own mortality nearly every day when he warred with Wutai. Assassins were a way of life. Peering behind him, Sephiroth was relieved to note that the paparazzi were falling further and further. Between the assassins and the men with cameras, he'd take the hitmen any day.

The glass condo, Midgar Elite, came into view with its sprawling high-rise apartments. With salvation in sight, Sephiroth burned the bike down the lane toward it. One more look back

confirmed that the pursuit had finally been abandoned. He let out a sigh. If only there was an eloquent yet somewhat subtle way of exhibiting exactly how he felt about their attention...After the smear trial he couldn't afford—his lovely green eyes caressed Masamune—a more direct approach.

The General passed his bike over to a valet, gaze piercing the man in a way only his could. "If she gets even the smallest scratch..." His hand tapped Eskallalina meaningfully. "Let's just say you won't suffer just a scratch." The man gulped, handling the motorcycle like it was his firstborn.

Elite was the finest condo complex in all of Midgar. The inside pool, mako ball courts and gym were the biggest and best equipped of any apartment building. The marble floor he strode upon shined from the massive chandelier above and the staff were courteous and friendly, perhaps to a fault. To Sephiroth, it was just another stopover in the hell that was his life.

Attendants circled the High Commander like the paparazzi. Out of the fire and into the frying pan, he thought, glaring daggers to send them scurrying out of his way. No he didn't care for some personal entertainment; enough of the female staff had offered to 'service' him that way. No, he didn't want any liquor sent up; he already a massive migraine coming on. No, no, no...

"Out of my way!" he finally snarled. The courtroom drama had worn his patience thin. All the endless speeches, the ridiculous statements, the false evidence...Sephiroth could almost feel himself tearing apart and engaging in the murder of the staff would certainly damn him. Sterling-silver hair floating the General hurried down the hall and into an elevator.

Inside, his head hit the wall and the SOLDIER breathed deeply, willing the fury out of his mouth. Sephiroth hated the insincerity of humanity. They who flashed his face on posters, magazines and the television—they knew nothing of him! All they saw was the beautiful icon, the skilled swordsman and the cold general. Nothing of the trapped, tortured soul...

The elevator binged and the doors slid open. Letting out a breath, Sephiroth stepped into the corridor, his thoughts as dark as it was. Though he'd been exonerated of the crime the general didn't commit, the smear to his name was not entirely erased. Whatever gil he'd been awarded for his pains had probably been wired into President Shinra's bank account; he certainly hadn't seen any of it. Not that he really cared...

Slipping his keycard through the reader prompted the door to open, allowing Sephiroth to enter and shut it, locking it securely. The room was sparse; he'd had little time to decorate it because of the endless meetings and briefings to attend. Not like he'd felt so inclined. Even in the relatively safe space, the general felt too paranoid to allow even the slightest sliver of his soul be revealed. Revealing himself meant exposing his pain, pain that others can and had exploited...

Within minutes he'd hung his ebony coat in the closet and had a pot of tea whistling. He took it sugarless, creamless, without sweetener of any kind. Hojo had forbid him to use but the most base of ingredients for his meals, not wanting his precious experiment to be affected even in such a minor manner. As much as Sephiroth hated it he became accustomed to the food that way. Cup held with one hand, the SOLIDER lifted the remote with the other and flipped through the channels.

"Welcome to the 23rd Shinra-sponsored Mako-ball Tournament! In the semi-finals we have the Junon Crashers against the Midgar Mashers—"

Click.

"Oh, Dimitri, I don't know how to tell you but...I'm in love with your brother! And your son he's actually—"

Click.

"Channel Twenty News. This is Marle Gateway with our top news story. Take it away, Marle."

"Thank you, Glenn. The verdict in the highly published sexual misconduct case involving General Sephiroth is not guilty. Rumor has it that President Shinra, the general's employer, rigged the case by bribing the jury...These rumors have not been confirmed—"

Click!

Sephiroth spat the liquid back into the cup. The general longed to hurl the pottery at the offending TV but restrained himself and laid it on the coffee table instead. He'd have a hard time explaining that to his inventory assistant. Sephiroth had considered giving the assistant, who he believed to be in league with Hojo, a date with Masamune but decided that that, too, would not go unnoticed. Blood dripping off his sword did tend to draw attention after all...

After that nerve-scraping episode, the general was about to shut the television off when he happened upon a rock concert by his favorite band, The Followers. Their music was refreshingly realistic and honest. What a rarity in this bubble-gum and sugar-sweet-dagger-hidden times! The notes of their most recent song, One Wing, reverberated through the apartment and the SOLDIER shut his eyes, letting it flow over him.

Half-way through, Sephiroth felt somewhat calmed so he grabbed his cup and stepped out onto his balcony. The chill air slapped against his bare chest and stirred his shimmering silver hair. From his high rise the general had a spectacular view of the city in all its 'glory'. Mako smoke climbed to the midnight sky and the noise of the bustling city almost drowned out the third verse of One Wing.

Despite the pollution and the noise there was peace and partial contentment to found this night. At least the ordeal was mostly over. Sephiroth would undoubtedly be the media's mud-slung darling in the next few months but that would be nothing compared to the courtroom mess. The constant fights to defend his honor, the accusations, the frustrations with his less-than-moral legal assistance...Finally, blessedly, over.

Ring!

Two mako-green eyes flared open and traveled to his belt. His PHS was ringing and flashing brightly with an incoming call. That peace was determined to remain elusive, apparently. Keeping the device near was an annoying requirement of his position, unfortunately. Lifting the PHS to his ear, a slender finger pressed the ON button. "General Sephiroth, here."

Sephiroth wasn't sure whether he was dismayed or grateful that the wait for the President was brief. But brief it was for Shinra's phlegm-filled cough filled his ear. The general inched it away for a moment then closer when the man began to talk. "Congratulations, Sephiroth!"

Breathing through his pearly white teeth, the SOLDIER muttered, "I'd hardly think congratulations are in order...President."

Another hacking cough, then..."Why of course it's in order! Those charges you were up on were very serious, Sephiroth. Aren't you glad you have a boss as generous as I to...how shall we say...make the jury see...the gilden side of the...truth?"

"So it is true...As they said..." Sephiroth said in monotone. It was confirmed—his employer paid off the jury. Had he really anticipated anything differently? The news channel hadn't. Now no one would believe his innocence because while a select few had considered his side of the story, the knowledge of tampering—regardless of the fact that had been done with neither his knowledge nor consent—would send them into the shadows of incrimination.

That migraine was intensifying. Oh how he wished Hojo hadn't confiscated his pain medicine.

Why did he care? Sephiroth had never cared what the media or the masses thought before. The truth was the truth even if most people perceived it as a lie. He was innocent. He knew that. And even with his tainted image the hypocrisy of humanity would make take that taint and elevate his status higher. That was the ultimate irony of society—the worse their icons were the more they loved them.

The sounds of a long draw on a cigar emitted through the receiver. Was Shinra on his second one already? Sounded like it. "Don't worry about the leak, Sephiroth. A little bit more gil will shut the mouths of those reporters. None will be the wiser of your...indiscretion."

They will be the wiser—they'll just pretend they are not. "How many times do I need to remind you, President Shinra, there was no 'indiscretion'!" Taking a few calming breaths, the general continued, keeping his tone neutral. "She came on to me. I was minding my own business when the bitch—"

There was a whooshing sound like the wave of the hand. "There's no need to discuss the details, Sephiroth. I'm not criticizing you. A man will be man. I'm sure even a...oddball like you have needs..." More choking, more choking..."But please do spare me the details of your sexual...eccentrics..."

Fire raged in Sephiroth's head, his pale facer even paler in the moonlight. Why did people think him bizarre because he didn't engage in the meaningless urges of humanity? Why was society like that to begin with? Why couldn't a person just sit in their room, read a few books, mind their own business...Why did society have to drag them into the light, expose them to pain and then toss them aside to suffer alone?

The general shook his head to clear the thoughts as his employer was rambled on. "You've had a hard time of it. I think you need a vacation." Another draw on the cigarette, followed by another phlegm-filled cough. "Some place remote."

That had Sephiroth listening. A trip away from this nasty city wouldn't be bad, especially considering the current situation. One silver eyebrow arched. "A...vacation?"

"Yes, yes, a vacation! To the wonderful exotic location of...Gongaga!"

Sephiroth snarled. "You must be joking...Gongaga is in the middle of a jungle!"

"Exactly. The perfect getaway." In festering impatience the general waited for Russell's hacking cough to cease so he could continue. It was fortunate that Shinra quickly recovered—Sephiroth didn't how long he'd last. "Well, you could, you know, deal with your little...frustrations and take care of a matter for me. Kill two birds with one stone, as they say."

With a disgusted, exhausted sigh, Sephiroth said, "Fine. Why are you shipping me off to Gongaga?"

"There's been some rioting in the villages because of a little...spillage."

"Spillage?" Sephiroth invested as much sarcasm as he could in the word. It was widely known of his displeasure with Shinra's decision to harness the mako for energy. The concept itself wasn't what bothered him—it was the excessive nature of it. Like most natural resources, mako could replenish itself if consumed conservatively. But, as Shinra often put it, that's hardly profitable...

As the President choked and gagged, Sephiroth pushed an errant strand of starlight-shaded hair behind an ear. "Another unfortunate result of your taxing the planet of its life, hmmmm? You are not simply content to drain every last drop—you want that power, that money in your hands as fast as humanly possible."

Once he recovered, Shinra bypassed his subordinate's mutterings as he always did. Like others he'd heard this protest before. Sephiroth's concern lay with the welfare of the planet; Shinra's was with the welfare of his bank account. "You leave tomorrow morning at 0600 hours. A helicopter will be waiting. I expect regular updates on the situation and full report when you return."

Then Shinra hung up, leaving a nasty clicking noise in the general's ear.

Unlike with the cup, Sephiroth couldn't restrain the urge to hurl something—that something being the PHS—far and with fury. The device flew true, smashing into an apartment building on the opposite side of the street. Particles dropped to the road below to be crushed by the oncoming cars.

Sephiroth sighed. That's how he felt. Like someone had thrown him far and he was falling, always falling, soon to burst apart. Again, the general pressed forefinger and thumb at his temple, trying to dispel the headache. The cool air against his body was a relief at least. Explaining the PHS demise would be troublesome with his damn assistant but he'd lift his blade and that would probably be the end of it.

Now, if only the situation at Gongaga could be as simple...

Focus. There is much to do. Provision supplies. Contact my second-in-command...As much as being pushed into solving every one of Shinra's messes annoyed him, away missions often distracted him enough to give him some peace. Others found relaxation in quiet times or fun times---he found them in the heat of battle or the tension of espionage.

A sudden flash blinded the general. His hand came up to shield from another. Soon many more flashes followed those. Hands on the railing, Sephiroth peered below and cursed at what he saw. Determined as ever, the paparazzi had camped out as near as they legally could by his condo building and snapped as many pictures as they could get.

Yes, going to Gongaga would be a welcome diversion...

Again wishing he had a suitable way to show his 'appreciation' of their 'admiration' Sephiroth took refuge inside his condo again. They had a good few pictures of him now, with his shirt off to boot. At least he was so far up that whatever they had of him couldn't be of good quality. Undoubtedly Sephiroth would find those same pictures on the cover of the Investigator along with some sordid line like "Shinra's Top Military Official stands on his balcony in the nude!"

Yes, tea would be good. He'd down the whole kettle before the night was out.