Numbers were good, if you asked a certain man who lived in the dark city of Midgar.
To him, numbers were good simply because they never failed to behave themselves and play by the rules. In fact, they couldn't break the rules if they wanted to. Be they positive, negative, or complex, they all adhered to the same laws; the laws of mathematics.
You could never obtain a product by dividing a number with a divisor; you got a quotient and possibly a remainder.
You couldn't obtain a sum by subtracting one number from another number; you got a difference instead.
You couldn't obtain a quotient by multiplying several numbers; you wound up with a product, of course.
The rules were simple, and they applied to everyone and everything.
But even in the world of mathematics, there existed a space reserved for anomalies. They were called 'outliers', but otherwise, they were little more than values which fell too far from the expected average to be taken into consideration. Numbers by themselves were probably good, but mathematically speaking, outliers were bad. They represented errors, mistakes, incompetence, and imperfections.
Yet he yearned to be an outlier in his own right.
Too many people, he decided, had lived their lives according to what had been expected of them. They had all been little better than chocobos, the way they had lived. None of them had wanted to be outliers, lacking the vision to take themselves to the limits of their potential. All of them had preferred to be considered normal, and not dared to take a shot at achieving something with their lives. Most people didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, since their lives were as mundane as they could get.
None of them seemed to realize that outliers, imperfect as they might be, were still outstanding in their own little way.
So James Hojo decided that he would be an outlier, no matter what the cost.
Might have sounded like strange decision for a 16 year old teenager to make, but there you have it.
It wasn't easy, working for the ShinRa Electric Company. Just ask any one of their employees, and you would have gotten some pretty somber stories to sink your teeth into.
Yet the man, a graduate fresh out of university with a degree and also a possibly bright future ahead of him, found himself submitting his work application to a pasty faced woman in a black suit, who had given him a look which most people reserved for vermin and filth. Instantly taking a dislike for the woman, he swore to himself that when he got to be somebody in the company, he would get this female swine of a Human Resources director booted out faster than was humanly possible.
Meanwhile, the swine (also called the Human Resources Director) buzzed up a secretary on her intercom, and demanded that he be taken to the Logistics department. He mentally cursed as he realized the tasks that probably lay ahead of him in the Logistics department
Numbers may have been good, but it didn't mean that he could still tolerate them in excessive amounts.
As he was lead to the offices of the Logistics department, he began to regret taking that minor in Statistical Studies.
Working in Logistics was generally considered to be the second-lowest rung on the ShinRa corporate ladder; the lowest being the custodial services. The department didn't have an executive representing it on the Board of Directors, which in itself spoke for the department's standing in the company's hierarchy. Heck, the department didn't even have any executives to speak of; the employees all reported to a computerized system that served as their overseer and supervisor.
Apparently, the only reason why the skeleton crew in Logistics was still on the payroll was to ensure that the computer itself made no mistakes as it recorded data on the company's usage of resources. Machines were reliable to a point, but in the end, they still made periodic mistakes and glitched. So the crew in Logistics kept the electronic brain operating, aware that as soon as a way of debugging the supercomputer was found, their jobs would all be forfeit.
And that was how the man worked for three years, little more than a mindless drone. All day long, doing nothing but analyzing reports, tallying numbers, applying algorithms for optimization, and being generally miserable.
Very obviously, he wanted out. You couldn't really be an outlier of any sort in the company from where you sat in your old, rickety chair in front of a monitor in the Logistics department.
So he tried every method within his means to get out of the dratted department. He worked overtime like no other employee had, trying to prove to his superiors that he was worthy of leaving his very own personal piece of Hell.
As the saying goes, patience is well-rewarded. Halfway through his fourth year in the dreaded department, he was transferred to the Science department as a laboratory technician.
Working as a laboratory technician for ShinRa's Science Department was a vast improvement from his old job in Logistics, but he still hungered for more. Everyday, he clocked-in and assisted the various scientists employed by ShinRa in their experiments and research. After a while, he noticed that his superiors were not always fully attentive to the what happened in the lab, including their own experiments. Often enough, they didn't even realize what their colleagues were up to; the staff lounge was probably more familiar to them than the lab complex. In fact, they ran experiments which churned out results that were just enough to keep them employed.
So he decided to turn their negligence to his advantage. Gradually, with the help of the other lab assistants, he started running his own experiments. The other lab assistants were only too glad to comply; most of them were better at their job than those slacking scientists they worked under.
Sometimes, having incompetents working around you didn't seem to be so bad, after all. It was worth tolerating all their nonsense simply because in the end, you got your chance to shine.
So the ShinRa laboratories began producing a veritable cascade of materials for the company to profit from. The chief researchers remained quite clueless to all that was happening right under their noses. As long as their own insignificant experiments turned out alright, they probably wouldn't have noticed if the assistants all had a toga party in the lab complex and invited strippers in to spice things up.
When Hojo and his comrades in arms had produced sufficient materials to be considered outstanding, he collected a little sample of everything, and went straight to the President.
Five days later, he was wearing a name tag with the words 'Chief Scientist' printed neatly in black beneath his own name.
Once most of the former chief researchers had been sacked for incompetence, the other assistants had unanimously agreed to elect Hojo as their new boss. After all, he had been the one who lead their little 'rebellion' of sorts.
The pay increments they all received for their hard work was also a factor in the decision, admittedly. But Hojo couldn't care less.
He had gotten to the first step towards his success, and he'd be damned if he would stop right there.
The pretty little woman working in his lab hadn't escaped his notice. She had been one of the principal supporters of his mutinous plans, and was now one of the head researchers under his supervision.
Her name was Lucrecia, and she was pretty much identical to him save for gender and appearance. She had no taste for ethics, and her skills as a scientist were the envy of many.
Naturally, the two of them fell in love with each other. Though in their case, love was more defined as a mutual attraction based on common interest rather than the act of being caring towards one another. The two of them couldn't have cared less if the other had croaked; their only concern was to achieve success, and the reach the top together. Another thing the two of them seemed to agree on was that getting to the top was not a bloodless process, and that if push came to shove, only one of them would sit in that lofty position someday.
One aspiring outlier had finally found another, it seemed.
The race between the two scientists was neck-to-neck, most of the time. Murders were hushed up, documents were faked, deadly toxins slipped into countless cups of coffee, experiment results stolen, tests sabotaged, and booby traps rigged all over the lab complex. Eventually, no one save for the two of them and their most trusted assistants dared to step into the complex; one eviscerated lab assistant had seen to it that no one entered the deathtrap of a lab unless they worked there.
And yet, the two of them were perfectly at home, seeing it all as little more than a game that was along their path to success.
When she discovered a puzzling new compound in minerals from Mount Nibel, he purified it and called it Mako.
When he formulated a process of deriving energy from Mako, she found a way to condense the deadly substance into energy spheres called Materia.
When she started to create combat beasts for ShinRa's military with Mako as her primary mutagen, he outdid her once again.
And that was how SOLDIER was started.
One particular specimen in the lab complex's storage chambers had never really been experimented on. It was an ancient thing, that had been found in a millenia-old chunk of rock. Barely more than a dense cluster of preserved tissues, it had so far defied all attempts to derive anything of use from its body.
One of the other researchers, Professor Gast, had named it JENOVA.
JENOVA was supposed to be a Cetra, one of the Ancient beings that had colonized Gaia long before ordinary humans were on top of things. And the secrets encoded within her body were the subject of much dispute. Obviously, a being with an Ancient's power would be a good source of material for creating the next generation of SOLDIERs.
When Lucrecia got pregnant as a result of one of her casual dalliances with Hojo, both of them decided that rather than raise a human child, they would rather bring up a child that would forever be remembered in history.
Several weeks into her second trimester, an cocktail of Mako and JENOVA cells were injected into the unborn child's body.
It was a simple act that would alter the course of the future that was yet to be.
And also the simple act that eventually killed her; as she was midway through her seventh month of pregnancy, she began to fall sick. Her hair fell out, and splotches of decay appeared on her skin, as though she was beginning to rot alive. Even her mind was not spared; she began to have horrifying nightmares of incomprehensible things, of death, sorrow, and bloodshed. After a week of suffering through intensifying physical and mental agony, she told Hojo that he had lost their friendly 'competition'. For all the discoveries that he might make, he would never be capable of birthing a living being that would change the world.
The dreams she had suffered through, she claimed, were prophecies. And their child would be the key to a turning point in Gaia's history.
For the first time in a long while, Hojo admitted defeat, and he gladly complied with her request for a quick death.
Two days later, when he was asked what he would name his son, he casually supplied a name that Lucrecia had chosen. He himself had little taste for names, so it turned out to be a win-win situation.
And that was how the premature baby, sleeping peacefully in his incubator, was named Sephiroth.
In the end, Hojo thought that he had finally made it as an outlier. He had broken beyond the boundaries of normalcy, and done what few others would have dared to do. Lucrecia had not died in vain; their son was a testimony to that. Sephiroth had grown into the man - no, being - that Lucrecia had spoken of shortly before her demise.
She might have borne the child, but he had played a significant role in that, too. He might never overshadow her accomplishment of birthing such a magnificent specimen, but at the end of the day, he was content with how far he'd come in his life.
As he lay dying, all alone, on a rain-soaked platform above the massive Mako cannon called the Sister Ray, he decided that it was worth it, being an outlier.
It was worth it, with mathematical certainty.