Notes: Wow, it's weird to think of this fic being all done. I know it's been going up pretty fast since I started posting it, but for several months I had the beginning of chapter one on my computer, as well as an early draft of the snow scene in chapter seven. So . . . yeah, kind of a weird feeling, especially since it's the continuation of their misadventures in Just a Simple Mission. But I also love the sense of accomplishment at finally completing this! Thanks to everyone who's reviewed, and Seph waxing philosophical is for Lisa. It's also shamelessly based on Dana Scully's reports from The X-Files. Hope everyone sticks with me for the next fic!
It has been a week since the Shinra Electric Power Company's traitors attempted their rebellion. The majority of them were killed in the resulting battle, along with many of the loyal SOLDIERs, Turks, and other employees of Shinra. Many others have been wounded, with some remaining in serious condition while others sustained only minor injuries. Most are expected to live
Those of the traitors who are yet alive and currently being incarcerated have confessed as to the origins of the mysterious gang of hijackers. Acting independent from Broken Circle, the traitors hired those men to board the train and create chaos, claiming that they desired the body of one Azazel Rakesh. Their true motive was solely to gain the attention of Commander Fair and myself, as they wanted us to pick up the search for the Compass and discover its location—if, indeed, it exists at all. Their lust for power drove them to this plan, as they wanted to attempt taking the Compass into their own possession and to ignore the truce they made with Broken Circle.
Azazel Rakesh, the twin brother of Gunju Rakesh and the former corporate executive officer of Broken Circle, has not been confirmed deceased. It is highly unlikely, however, that he could have withstood the force of the avalanche, the descent over the cliff, and the sub-zero temperatures. It is true that the chocobo survived the plunge, and the resulting burial under the snow, but its body structure is much different from a human being's. Chocobos are generally born in the wild; they must survive many dangerous trials during their lifetimes. And they are heavily insulated against harsh weather.
The weapons manufacturer Broken Circle is under serious investigation, though documents containing proof of their plot against Shinra remain unfound. The body of Gunju Rakesh was buried under his brother's name, and it is suspected that at least some of the most incriminating evidence against the company may have been buried with him. The corpse will be exhumed later in the week.
The child, Maryn Austerlitz, is safe in the village of Kalm, where she is residing at the home of her aunt, Trista Mueller. Both have insisted that they have no knowledge of the Compass, nor anything that may have been left to them by Wilheim and Rachel Austerlitz. The possibility of Dalton having found such an item and concealing it in his mansion in Dismal is being investigated. Dalton refuses to confirm or deny that he suspected Maryn Austerlitz of possessing the Compass.
The reason as to why the Jeep alloted to myself and Commander Fair malfunctioned is as yet unknown. No one has admitted to tampering with the radiator or the gauge. This is still being looked into.
Commander Fair and myself retired to Icicle Inn for the past week, where we have been recovering from the misfortunes that beset us on the mountain. We have conducted a search for the body of Azazel Rakesh, but it is doubtful that it will ever be recovered, considering the constant winter climate of this area.
The mysteries surrounding the elusive Compass may never be fully solved. Until it can be held in our hands, until we can see for ourselves that it exists, there will never be proof that Broken Circle and the Shinra traitors possessed a goal that was not in vain. And whether or not the Compass is ever located, Shinra will continue to search for the Promised Land—even if it is a hope as vain as the Compass may be.
It's possible that all mankind is searching for some kind of a Promised Land—something that would bring meaning to their lives and answer the many questions concerning their existence. Maybe, as some have suggested, the Promised Land is something different for each person. Maybe there isn't one specific location where it can be found.
Only time will tell.
Sephiroth leaned back in his chair, pushing his glasses up on his nose as he read over the report he had been typing. That was a good enough place to stop. There was not really anything else to be said. Not until Dalton's trial, anyway, and that was not something to which he looked forward. No doubt his lawyer would bring all number of new and outrageous claims to the table. But it should not drag on for months, as some court cases did. It was a clear-cut matter—Dalton had orchestrated an all-out rebellion and had tried to blow up everyone in the vicinity in order to get rid of the SOLDIERs. He would not be given mercy.
When he and Zack had spoken with Trista and Maryn about the Compass, Trista had mentioned that she had tried to speak with President Shinra, but had been denied due to the traitors intercepting calls. It was logical, and there was no reason to disbelieve her. And a check of her telephone bill had shown that she had made a call to the Shinra building. Later, she had tried to get inside, and had been denied at that point, as well. But at least nothing worse had happened—such as her and Maryn being abducted by the traitors or by Broken Circle.
He looked up as the connecting door opened and Zack walked inside. The brunet grinned, plopping on one of the beds and stretching out.
"Is that the report for Shinra?" he asked, placing his hands behind his head as he glanced at the computer screen.
Sephiroth nodded. "I'm just finishing it. I'll email it to Shinra tonight."
"Sounds good to me." Zack looked up at the ceiling. "Man, who'd have ever thought that a simple mission to Dismal would've brought about all this. It's been one really wild time, Seph."
"I know," Sephiroth grunted. "And I've had to relive it while typing this report."
Zack looked back to him. "How's your shoulder?"
Out of habit, Sephiroth reached up and ran his hand over the spot. "It's fine," he said, and meant it. It rarely bothered him now, and the amount of bandaging had been reduced to a much more small portion. Before long, that would be able to be removed as well.
"Now, you're not just saying that," Zack teased.
"How can I be sure?"
"You should know. You see the wound each time the bandaging is changed."
"Yeah, but I can't feel your pain!"
"There's no pain."
Zack yawned, looking ready to doze. "I still think you should've waited before getting rid of the sling, though," he said in a cheerful voice.
"That would have made our misadventure in the snow and the battle against the traitors much more arduous."
"Hey, you managed during the attack on the train," Zack said.
"I would have rather not."
Zack sat up, watching him. From Zack's body language, and his hesitation in speaking, it seemed that he was concerned about something. Sephiroth turned to look at him, removing his glasses.
"Is something wrong with the chocobo?" he asked.
Zack started. "What?" Then he blinked as the words registered. "Oh! No, she's great." He grinned. "She should be able to travel soon."
"Then what is it?"
Zack sighed, looking down at the floor. "I dunno, Seph," he said. "I've just been wondering . . . do you think President Shinra really felt bad at all that he thought we were traitors?" He raised his gaze again, looking up at his friend. "I mean . . . he said he was sorry, and he fixed it up with the press, but . . ." He shrugged. "I just get the feeling that it was kind of an 'Oh well, made a mistake. Too bad, time to move on' thing with him." It had been bothering him since that night, especially so with the doubts that had already been planted concerning their livelihood as SOLDIERs. But if Seph had not noticed, Zack might not have said anything about it.
Sephiroth sighed as well, shaking his head. "No, I honestly don't think he cares," he admitted, "except for the bad press that it caused his company. But most businessmen are that way. I don't believe he's any worse than many of them."
Zack frowned. "Yeah, I know . . . but still, it kinda doesn't help with what I was thinking about before."
Sephiroth nodded. "Though, even if we were to get out, it isn't likely that we could find better work, or any at all," he pointed out.
Zack also nodded. "That's what I've been thinking, too," he agreed. "So I guess it's you and me, in this together till the end." He grinned again, leaning back.
"Or until something else happens."
Zack swatted at him. "No pessimism now, Seph," he retorted. "I'm just cheering up!"
"The 'something else' wouldn't have to be negative," Sephiroth said, turning back to the computer screen.
"The way you said it made it sound that way!"
"It's a habit."
"Boy, do I know it!"
The ringing of the telephone interrupted their banter. Both of them turned to look at it. The only ones who had called during this week had been from Shinra. Would that be the case now? Hopefully nothing had gone wrong.
Zack stretched across the bed, reaching for it. "I'll get it," he said, grasping the receiver and lifting it to his ear. "Hello?"
He blinked, then grinned at the sound of the happy voice. It was Maryn. That was a welcome change from all the corporate stuff.
"Hey!" he greeted, relaxing into the bed. "What's up?"
"Well," Maryn said slowly, "I'm going to start school pretty soon, and I don't know if I'm going to like it." She had been previously tutored at Dalton's mansion, so this would be her first venture into any school. It was understandable that she would be nervous, especially considering everything that she had come through.
Zack smiled a bit. "I'm sure you'll do fine," he assured her. "It'll be different, but it should be a good change from seeing creepy guys going in and out of an old prison, right?"
Maryn giggled. "Yeah. . . . I just wish I could see you again before it starts."
"You know, I'd like that too," Zack declared. "Me and Seph are coming back in the next couple of days. When does your school start?"
"In about a week."
"Then we'll definitely be there!" Zack said. "And hey, do you like chocobos?"
"Sure!" Maryn chirped. "I mean . . . I like the pictures. I've never seen a real one." Her tone became excited. "Are you bringing back yours now?"
"Yup! I'll bring her by to meet you when we come. She'll like you." He grinned again. "Maybe she'll even take you for a ride."
Maryn squealed in glee. "That would be fun!" she exclaimed. "Have you named her yet?"
"Not yet," Zack admitted. "I'm still looking for just the right name."
"I'll try to think of something too!" Maryn volunteered.
"I'm sure that together we can come up with something," Zack smiled.
Sephiroth gave a vague smile as well. Zack always enjoyed his time with Maryn. And he was probably right, that the chocobo would like the child. She was a very easy-going bird, as long as the ones she cared about were not being harmed. Somewhat like Zack.
He turned back to the computer screen, replacing his glasses as he scrolled to the beginning of the document. He would save it, read it all through once more, and then send it, unless he decided that something else needed to be altered. There was no need to wait until evening.
A slight frown crossed his features when he came to the end of his report several moments later. Why had he waxed philosophical in it? Usually he just presented the facts, as they were, leaving out any personal opinions he held. Maybe he would take that part out. Holding down the Shift key, he used the arrow keys to select that portion of text. But then he frowned again, studying it. It might as well stay, really. He was not ashamed of what he thought. And it was not as if he was writing that information for a textbook, where it would most certainly be out of place. He pressed the Down arrow key, and the text was deselected.
Now he opened his Internet browser. The laptop was already connected to the Internet. He just needed to access his email at the website provided by Shinra for its employees.
He looked over. Zack was off the phone now, and still stretched on the bed as he watched the email program come up.
"What do you think would be a good name for a chocobo?"
Sephiroth blinked. Now that was unexpected. "I can honestly say I haven't the faintest idea," he grunted.
"Aw, come on," Zack grinned in a lazy way. "Didn't you ever have any pets to name?"
Sephiroth shrugged. "There was a kitten once," he said, his tone indifferent. "I found it in the alley behind the laboratory, so I brought it inside, cleaned it, and gave it something to eat. But Hojo took it away from me."
Zack frowned. "Really? Why?"
"He said I wasn't supposed to get attached to anything."
Zack sat up. That sounded like him, the creep. It was hard to imagine the horrible life Seph must have had, when Zack's own had been mostly happy and filled with caring people. They were from two different worlds, but now those worlds had been brought together. They shared their lives now, as comrades and friends.
"Well," he said, "you broke that rule now, didn't you?"
Sephiroth watched him a moment before looking back to the computer. "Have I?"
Zack smirked. "Sure," he said.
Sephiroth clicked the "New Message" option and attached the file to the blank email. "Maybe I have," he said, typing in a subject line before taking the mouse and pressing the "Send" button.