They thought I never heard the things they whispered about me behind my back. Well, they were all wrong. I heard everything.
I hear everything.
I see everything.
I touch everything, without laying a finger on anything.
No one sees my footsteps unless I want them to. And I don't leave fingerprints unless I want to.
"Useless old fart."
"Stupid fat man."
"Waste of space."
"Rufus' ball-washing cocksucker."
"Wonder why he hasn't been fired yet?"
I hear everything, indeed I do. Those young whelps seem to think I got my present rank by sitting on my arse, apparently. Well, once again, they have been proven to be wrong.
They have never lived through a war, they haven't. None of them knows what it was like to have a soldier bust down the door to your family home and then read out conscription orders to everyone standing shell-shocked in the living room. The writing had been on the wall for a war with Wutai, but no one had expected it to come that fast - as usual.
They wouldn't know how it felt to have a rifle thrust into their hands and be shouted at by some sadistic drill sergeant. Those old military instructors had been fifty times as brutal as I'll ever get, and they were under pressure to produce fighting troops in just three days. So we suffered for seventy-two hours, firing test shots until our hands bled and until several conscripts had broken bones to show to others as marks of their incompetence.
They don't know what it felt like to be sixteen and shivering, all alone and hundreds of miles away from home. No one was there to help you, not even your fellow troops; most of them were equally as young and homesick as you were. ShinRa had been particularly ruthless with its conscription protocols back then, since the war with Wutai was not a matter to be taken lightly.
None of them know what it felt like to see the Wutaian planes flying overhead, ignoring the lowly ShinRa infantry that was advancing below them. Several smaller escort aircraft fired down on us occasionally, to make sure that we couldn't do diddly-squat about the bombers.
They wouldn't know that those same planes were headed to the city of Midgar, still in its infancy. They also wouldn't know that those Wutaian bombers tore through half of the city before anti-aircraft batteries finally took them down.
They wouldn't know just how brutal a Wutaian deep-strike operation could be, and how thoroughly it had been planned - within hours of the bombing, all communications to Midgar had been severed. Wutaian commandos were famous for their stealth, and they used it to successfully cut us off from our home base.
None of them know what it was like to not know if their family was safe. We didn't know if they were alive or part of a rubble pile, either.
None of them would know how it felt like to try and fend off the Wutaian troops at the battlefront without any coordination from a superior officer.
None of them will EVER know what it felt like to watch a whole platoon of troops get shredded into a bloody mess by a single Wutaian weedcutter grenade.
None of them will know how it felt like to hold a stranger's hand as he lay dying without legs. None of them have been asked by a total stranger to tell his mother that he loved her.
None of them have felt that helplessness before.
They would have never been so overcome by rage that anyone who was within firing range became a target. None of them would ever know how amazing it felt to realize that one of the unfortunate victims of said anger had been a Wutaian colonel.
None of them would ever have gotten their hands on a Wutaian code cipher that effectively led to the end of the war.
Some of them are respectable for their competence, but some others are disgusting due to their arrogance. They say I tend to take out my anger on them, which all goes to show just how far their respect for rank goes. A soldier who respects his superior officers would take the punishment, and then politely speak out if he dared to at all. Seniority once meant that subordinates would be silent as you did your job or punished them, but alas, those days are gone.
I may shout at them at times. I sometimes also smack them. But I have never broken a single one of my subordinate's bones before.
I am not the best military commander out there. But I do listen to reasonable and logical advice. Obviously, few have wondered why my office door is never, ever closed... which explains why little intelligence comes to me directly; they usually linger around Scarlet instead. But she relays all the information to me, so in the end all generally goes well.
Of course, if I wanted to, I could always dig for the intel by myself. But I am not a one-man army.
They might not realize it, but the right to command has to be earned. And by respecting your commander, you respect the efforts he or she has put into earning it.
And I'd say that I have paid my dues for that right.