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Chapter 1

He was eleven years old. His mother's funeral had been yesterday, and tomorrow Rufus Shinra was expected to return to school. His father would not allow him time to grieve. Rufus doubted that his father understood what grief was, because the President certainly didn't seem like he was grieving. The man hadn't even come to his own wife's funeral.

Oh, he had made an appearance at the public memorial service, a spectacle to give the people a time and place to grieve for their "princess". However, President Shinra had insisted on a small private ceremony for the funeral itself: immediate family only. The memorial service was more tribute, a press field day where people who'd never known his mother cried their eyes out. At the funeral itself, no one cried. Rufus knew better than to cry where anyone could see, especially his father. Rufus had been so sure he'd come.

When he'd confronted his father about why he hadn't come, the old man had said something came up: an important meeting.

"Your mother's gone," his father had said. "But we're still here and the world is still turning with Shin-Ra at its center. We have to keep moving forward. I can not afford to appear weak or waste company time being sentimental. The same goes for you, Rufus. You'll have to grow up and learn eventually."

Rufus did learn. He learned that his father didn't love his mother and cared very little for him. At least that's how things seemed. Yes, his mother was gone, but he was there and he'd needed his dad. He had needed someone to stand beside in the graveyard outside the city, to stand with him in the rain when they'd lowered the coffin, lowered mom, into the ground. Tseng had been there beside him, holding an umbrella and Rufus's hand. The Turk held Rufus's hand, because the boy had needed a hand to hold and Rufus's father wasn't there. Rufus knew his father would have called it weakness, but holding Tseng's hand was all the boy could do to hold back tears.

Rufus's father had always been distant. The boy could count on one hand the number of times he'd gotten to see his father growing up. Their father/son talks had always seemed like an interview, like Rufus had to impress his father, had to prove he was worthy of being his son. Even when he was five years old, Rufus had tried his best to seem clever and attentive, to be the son his father wanted, to earn the old man's respect. Often, the only thing he earned was mocking and scorn. Rufus had learned to take such things as a challenge so they wouldn't get to him.

As he had grown older, Rufus had rationalized his father's behavior as tough love. Now, Rufus knew he had been wrong. His father didn't care about him. His mother had. She had been the very opposite of father. While he wore dark red, like blood, Mother had always worn white, and her hair was such a light blond that she seemed like a snow flake, shining and delicate. Her radiance really was like sunshine on fresh snow, bright and clean. But she was warm too, and soft, in every way: her touch, her smile, her lips against his cheek when she said good night. While his father loved power and money, she loved life and her son, Rufus.

Now she was gone.

"My mother's dead and I don't have a father," Rufus spat. "I'm an orphan!" There was no one to hear his rant, except for whoever was watching the hidden cameras he was sure were on him 24/7. Security aside, Rufus was alone in his room. He'd locked himself in and wasn't going to come out until he left for school.

He knew he was being childish. Furthermore, he knew his father didn't care if he locked himself in his room. His father didn't care about him and couldn't wait to send him back to boarding school, on the other side of the continent!

Rufus flopped backwards onto his bed.

Orphans had it better off, he decided. It was better not to have parents than to have a father who refused to be your dad when you needed him.

"Ugh!" Rufus groaned. The room felt too small. He wished he could start running and never stop. Oh, he'd run away if he could. That would teach his old man. Rufus bet his dad would miss him if he were really gone. Except, escape was impossible. The Shinra penthouse was at the top of the highest building in Midgar, Rufus wasn't allowed anywhere without an a highly trained armed escort, and then there were the security cameras.

Well, it could always be challenge. See how far he'd get. Maybe he could even get his father's attention.

Hacking into the security grid wasn't as difficult as Rufus had expected. He'd been taking computer classes since he was six years old and had excelled in them. The real problem was what to do. If the cameras went off, security would come running, and the building might even go into lock down. Of course, looping the camera's footage might buy him some time, and he might even use security's response to his advantage.

So it was that at five o'clock that afternoon the camera began to loop the footage of Rufus's room. Twenty minutes later, the camera cut out. Some Turks scrambled to get the feed back while others rushed to Rufus's room. At the same time, Rufus scrambled out of the laundry cart he'd hid himself in to get down to a lower level, and in short order, rushed across the lobby of the Shin-Ra building.

Rufus ran full force through the crowded streets of upper plate Midgar. The day was bright. The storm that had blown through the day before had cleared the air; so today the skies were clear. More people were out than usual, enjoying the sunny weather as they walked the golden cobble stone streets amid pristine buildings.

To Rufus, the crowds were all the better. He raced around corners and shoved his way through pedestrians, using his size to his advantage. Rufus had always been small for his age, and at 11 years old he had yet to hit the growth spurt puberty would bring. He squeezed through the throngs of pedestrians, all but disappearing into the mass of people.

Not that this would stop the Turks from finding him. Rufus knew he was already being followed. He didn't think his father would be above letting them tranq him. It would be the easiest way to subdue him without much of a scene.

He wasn't sure how long he'd been running, or how far he'd gotten when he saw the men in dark suits pushing their way through the busy streets to get to him. Rufus picked up his pace, but he knew he wouldn't be able to outrun them. Blue eyes darted, searching for some place to hide, some way to escape. That's when he saw it: an open manhole for maintenance beneath the plate.

Rufus darted for the opening. His clothes were going to be filthy after this, but he didn't care. He wasn't going to be dragged back that easy. He'd just go far enough down to get out of sight until the Turks moved on. Rufus began the climb down the wires and columns that connected the upper plate to the lower; hand over hand, as fast as he dared.

Too fast-! His foot slipped and so did he. Rufus tried to catch himself but one hand wasn't enough to keep himself up. Rufus fell.