When Rufus ShinRa was five years old, he saw a boy trapped behind glass and suspended in green.
"An experiment," the lab tech had said uneasily as he led him away, careful to hold only his sleeve, to exert no real force. There was a pause before he remembered to add the obligatory 'sir' Rufus had grown up hearing.
"Oh," Rufus said, looking back over his shoulder with twice as much interest. "I thought it was a boy."
"No, no," the technician said agitatedly, casting frequent, wary glances back at the boy, who shifted slightly behind the glass, his eyelids fluttering rapidly as he slept. "It only looks human."
"There's a difference?" Rufus had asked, moving forward only when the technician tugged a little harder, a little more desperately on his sleeve.
The man said nothing. "Does it have a name, then?"
"S-001 of the J-Project."
Rufus frowned petulantly, an expression he had quickly discovered yielded results. "That's not a name."
The technician had been frantic by this point, trying his absolute best to throw Rufus out without actually laying a hand on him. "I don't- it must be in the files somewhere, I don't know, please sir, just follow me..."
"What's it an experiment for?"
"It'll be the perfect soldier one day, sir. This is the last of the major tests it will be put through before being properly enrolled in the military." He did not expect Rufus to understand, to even remember this moment, but then, Rufus was adept at slipping beneath people's expectations and finding the hamstring when their backs were turned. It was a good quality, his father said, and encouraged that way of thinking in a five year old who should be playing with toys.
The boy behind the glass stirred, and Rufus could think of nothing less like a soldier than this sickly-looking boy, until his eyes opened.
Rufus had nightmares for weeks, and it was no comfort that he never saw the lab technician again, or was under no circumstances ever allowed to visit the floor the boy was held on after that.
This was the first building block in the Rufus ShinRa Theory of Control.
When Rufus was seven, nearly eight years old, and still haunted with odd flashes of liquid green, his mother died.
She had always been delicate, with such fragile thin skin, a little too slender, a little too pale. He had loved his mother, even though she went against just about every lesson the man he had to call father tried to drill into his head, about being strong in mind and body, unemotional, about having good business sense, about being more than the waste of resources he currently was, about being everything his mother was not. But his mother did what his father would not or could not do – praised him, hugged him and held him and told him he could do anything he put his mind to.
He knew that privileges of his birth would enable him to do that anyway, but he appreciated the sentiment. Nobody else ever saw the need to tell him such things.
His mother had died while he sat at her bedside, pale and dry-eyed, as his father said stiffly that it was a pity, that at least he was dealing with it the right way, and Professor Hojo had watched him with glittering black beetle eyes while he wanted to scream, this isn't fair! Why did it have to be her? Why not him, why not you? WhywhywhywhyWHY!
This was the second cornerstone, crafted by his father's nonchalance: everyone is expendable.
When Rufus was eleven, he had bullied his bodyguard into taking him below the Plate, and while fascinated at the squalor human beings could reduce themselves to, the third cornerstone came in the form of a dog, cringing against a graffiti-scrawled wall as several soot-faced boys threw stones at it.
The dog cowered and trembled, pressing itself tight against the bricks, uttering wretched pitiable yelps as a stone hit. It twisted this way and that, grovelled and whimpered, seeking escape from boys half its size. A seed fell into the fertile soil of Rufus' mind and took root. His minder grabbed him by the hand and led him 'away from danger' though he failed to see any in such a mangy, deplorable specimen of the canine family.
Seconds later, he saw it. It was just one stone too many, and anger finally overcome the dog's fear, causing it to lash out, to bite and bark and snarl in a hoarse frenzy of rage, and the boys tumbled away screaming. The second seed fell, and outgrew the first.
Led around the city, he realised that the people beneath the Plate, in the Slums, they were there because they wanted to be. Those with the means and the will had already left to join the citizens of the second city, and those without the will to make the means remained, telling themselves they couldn't do it, there was no way to leave. Yet these dismal apathetic people who did nothing with their days but seek an escape in drugs and alcohol and sex, they were still protected by his father. His father expended money and influence to keep these blank-eyed zombies happy, or at least numb, and he failed to see the investment. Money spent controlling them was money wasted, when it could be put to far better things, to the city, to the company. There were better ways to control someone, ways less expensive.
And so he added another keystone to his philosophy.
When Rufus became vice-president instead a pampered child who happened to share ShinRa genes and must therefore be tolerated for fear of job and life, he began to look back at these important images, began to craft them into something less vague and more permanent. He played chess with a man who could have been the boy behind glass, and he asked him if he cared that everyone feared him, that he would never be accepted. The General checkmated his king in eight moves and told him as he knocked it over, "I don't care if they fear me. That means nothing to me. Let them fear me, so long as they respect me."
It was good advice, Rufus decided. They feared the man who had been a helpless science project, and because they both feared and respected the reputation built up with blood and propaganda, they would not fight him. They knew as surely as the sun rose and set that he would slaughter them, and no one dared test to see whether it was true. Rufus wondered if the man himself knew this was the reason the rebel groups always developed outside of Midgar, despite it having the highest concentration of both reactors and dissatisfied people. The General was in Midgar, and so the rebel groups were not. A beautiful example of shrewd organisation on his father's part, and woe betide the blood-spattered angel if he died out on a mission – that would leave the city – his city, soon – as vulnerable as any other, and Rufus would not be pleased.
There were those, he knew, who were too moral to succumb to his father's way of doing things, who could resist the lure of money (like the girl in the pink dress, who had looked at the money his bodyguard had offered her with thinly disguised contempt, her lips thin with anger). Not many, but enough to be troublesome. But fear, that was universal. Everyone was afraid of something. It didn't matter if that fear was trapped and helpless behind glass, fear could overcome logic.
A beaten dog would lash out if pushed too far, but it was never necessary to cross that line. All that it required to keep people under control like the beaten dog was the knowledge that Rufus was capable of anything, and once that was established, it needed only the suggestion that Rufus would, if they grew too bold, be willing to commit the acts they lived in terror of. They would not dare to rebel so long as they knew that if he felt like it he could crush them, and so it was never necessary to beat them further.
That was the Rufus ShinRa theory of control.
He couldn't wait to put it into action.