I'm thrilled to be doing this story ^_^ After playing Crisis Core, it quickly became a not no but hell no that I was going to exclude Zack. So…he's my main character; Cloud, you've been demoted to a supporting role. Ha!
This will be something of a mix of Crisis Core and the original FFVII, featuring the main cast of both.
Adventure is Out There!
Zack took a deep breath of air as he got off the train. Ahh, just smell it! The city! The lights! The sounds! A whole new world!
And in the next second he was hit with a blow of homesickness so hard it actually folded his body over, causing his shoulders to hunch inward and making him grab his chest as though a literal shot had been dealt to his heart. Oh god, what the hell had he been thinking!
Yeah, that was smart, Zack! Hey mom, dad, I'm gonna join the army and earn fame and glory and honor! Just like the hero Sephiroth! Because those fucking army commercials just had to reel in my impressionable mind and now look, I'm hundreds of miles from home, not a single person here I know and absolutely little guarantee that I'll even become a first class SOLDIER!
But Zack wasn't one to mope for long. In fact, exactly five seconds after these thoughts, he straightened up and stood proudly. It was a thing with him to allow his doubtful feelings to flow through for a moment lest they stay bottled up and fester into a devastating explosion later down the road. It was better to face them here at the start, than lock them away in the vault of his mind.
Midgar indeed was a majorly new experience from Gongaga and as he walked down the streets heading for the Shinra headquarters, he observed all that the city life had to offer. Restaurants…specifically fast-food ones. When was the last time he'd even seen a McDonalds's? Gongaga only had mom and pop stores…where he and everyone knew the owners on a first-name basis. And their children. And their grandchildren. And the nieces, nephews and cousins.
You get the picture. Tiny.
He saw a few casinos and gasped in excitement. Even if he was too young to go, at least he was in walking distance of one. And aww, look at how friendly the locals were! They greeted each other by hooking an arm around the throat…and pulling. Pulling a bit hard though, but maybe the harder it was, the more it meant they'd missed you? Oh, wait…were their eyes supposed to roll into the back of their head? And what about those punches to the gut, what did that mean? Hm…Zack wondered what a 'curb stomp' was that one of the guys said. Was it a dance? He wanted to learn it!
He came to a crossroad and read the address on a sign post. Loveless Avenue. He would've said it sounded extremely depressing except that it strangely looked to be the liveliest section of Midgar. Groups of people stood around although there seemed to be mainly female clusters. Perhaps a celebrity was in town? Heh, in due time, he'd be that celeb!
In passing the women, he caught snatches of their conversations. It seemed most were reverently discussing something. But a few of the groups were actually arguing amongst themselves. Well, Zack didn't exactly want to be nosey but…they were shouting at the top of their lungs. It seemed privacy was no issue here so he treated his ears to the dulcet sounds of female debating.
"Genesis is the best!" One woman screamed and behind her, a group of cohorts nodded vigorously. She seemed to be brandishing a book and now pointed to it. "LOVELESS is so beautiful and touching and Genesis adores the play! So soft and sensitive! He's the epitome of a perfect man!"
"Yeah, well I heard that Angeal never uses his sword to fight, preferring a less aggressive way to take down his opponents," a rival group of dedicated fans said. Everyone in the group had "I heart Angeal" shirts on, making them just a step up more rabid than the previous group. "And he's so full of such wisdom and purity; it's enough to make anyone's heart melt!"
"Both of you are wrong!" cried the scariest bunch of them all. Zack had no doubt what fanclub this was. These women were all in leather, an effeminate version of Sephiroth's black leather and cape outfit but only their leader clutched a replica of the famous sword Masamune. "Who is it that's practically leading this war to sure victory single-handedly? Sephiroth! And that indifferent demeanor, so strong and silent, and sexy! And he washes his hair with rose and vanilla shampoo and conditioner! And he likes to show off that beautiful chest…so tempting…so mouth-watering…" The woman paused to daydream a bit before all of the group members wiped away the drool from their mouths. "So that's why Sephiroth's better!"
"Bring it on, Genesis groupie!"
"Angeal's the Anti-Christ!"
"I'll cut you for that, bitch!"
…Zack decided to flatten himself as much as possible against the storefronts in order to make his way past the brawl. Sadly, there was no other way to get around them as this was a one-way street. He hoped not to be noticed but maybe someone caught his reflection in a window and suddenly they all jerked up and came to a halt, frozen in time like meerkats scouting for predators.
"YOU!" All three clubs shouted upon spotting him. A thunderous stampede broke out and they all rushed for him, leaving him barricaded with nowhere to run.
"Join the Silver Elite Sephiroth club!" One woman said, shoving pamphlets directly in his face so hard, Zack was sure his nose had been broken by the force.
"NO! You have to be in the Genesis Study Group!" Someone else said, pushing fliers into his arms and even opened up the pack on his shoulder to put more in. "We're much better organized!"
"Angeal's Keepers of Honor, you need to become one of the Keepers of Honor!" a third person shrieked frantically as though this were truly a life or death matter. "We're the best organized and we have more money than the others!" Zack froze and blushed in embarrassment as the club leaflets were shoved directly into his pants hem, like money in a stripper's panties.
"Ladies, ladies! Okay, I'll join all of them, alright? So please…don't scrunch up your beautiful faces or ruin your gorgeous clothes by fighting amongst each other." It was the only way he could think of to get the women to calm down from a level ten froth fest to a manageable level four. They purred and giggled at his compliment, only now taking notice of 'what an attractive young man' he was.
The three club leaders respectively took down his phone number and email address to send him club information and blessedly allowed him to continue on his way, relatively unharmed and still in one piece. Note to self: Never again go down Loveless Avenue.
Upon reaching his room in the SOLDIER bunkers, Zack noticed his roomie was already there. The other guy was clearly a techie. On his side of the room was a standard issue desk but boasted a large computer monitor on top if it and a fancy keyboard that had to have cost 200 gil alone. The bed was littered with wires, CD's, SM cards and a bunch of stuff that he couldn't even make out. He felt as though he'd walked into the surveillance department for the FBI.
Zack sat his stuff down on the remaining bed and began the task of unpacking. He'd packed lightly (especially on clothes; no way in hell was he going to wear the hillbilly attire of frickin' Gongaga in a trendy city such as Midgar! Pfft, he wouldn't be caught dead—
Okay, so he couldn't help dragging along his favorite shirt sporting the logo of a local chocobo farm; it was always his dream to have one and the shirt reminded him of that promise so damned be any man, woman, or child that laughed at his beloved clothing item!
He sighed. Guess it was true, you could take the boy out of the country but you couldn't take the country out of the boy. He'd always have a certain pride for his roots.
Out of the bathroom came another boy that looked to be his age, if not a little younger and sporting a large pair of headphones and a small device tucked into his jeans pocket. On his head was a towel so he could dry off his dripping hair. He blinked at Zack. "Heya."
"…you didn't touch any of that stuff, did you?" The boy sized him up.
Zack could take down the scrawny guy if need be but he figured he'd hold his punches for now. "I don't even know what any of that stuff is," he said honestly.
"Good. Because I get a little extreme when people touch my things. It makes me go crazy, ya know? I start to feel the dark beast within me rising and I can't control him, he burns for the taste of flesh from a human sacrifice and I'm powerless to stop him unless I take my meds—"
Zack's eyes shot open wide and he actually scooted back away on his bed. How the fuck did someone like this get into SOLDIER!
"—By the light of the moon, he hunts for his prey, sucking dry the bones and savoring every drop of blood. And all because people touched my shit!"
"…um…good thing I didn't touch it then, right? Heh-heh…" Zack held his hands up in a classic "Please don't maim me!" gesture.
The guy leveled him with such a fierce, maniacal look that were this not real, he would've laughed. Oh god, he was about to be roommates with the devil's incarnation.
A few more intense seconds of staring passed by before the guy broke out into a huge goofy smile. "Naw, man, I'm just fuckin' with you!" he spluttered, punching Zack in the arm. "Name's Kunsel, how do you do?"
Zack's breath left him in a harsh gasp and he grabbed his chest. "Damnit, you about gave me a heart attack! I thought you were serious!"
Kunsel finished drying off his reddish-brown hair and tossed the towel across the chair to his desk. "Really? Hey, not bad then for my first attempt at acting! So, what's your name?"
"Zack," he said. "I'm from Gongaga. You?"
"Gonga-what?" Kunsel yelled, scooping his wires back into his carrying bag. "Man, that just sounds like it's in the middle of nowhere. I'm from Kalm…please tell me your little hick mind has heard of that."
"We have schools, you dummy!" Zack laughed, throwing his pillow at him. Kunsel caught it and flung it back at him. Putting the pillow back on the bed he said, "So. What the heck made you join the army? Kalm has options of careers, unlike my hometown."
Kunsel shrugged. "Fame, fortune and glory, right?" He turned his body away and continued to repack his equipment or at least separate it into manageable sections by placing them in the desk drawers. "It's practically why we all joined."
He was hiding something. "Well, yeah, it's why I joined. But you…don't seem like the army type." Zack tried to say that second part kindly. Kunsel had now put on a pair of oval-framed glasses and with his thin body, he looked anything other than a military guy.
Kunsel chuckled and stretched out on his cleared bed. "Alright, fine. Momma dearest doesn't seem to think me starting my own computer business is a worthwhile endeavor. Real men, according to her, join the army. My grandfather was in the army and after he came back, he actually wanted to get as far away from all things military as possible…so he and my grandmother moved from Junon to Kalm, settled down and had a family. My father became a SOLDIER though against both their wishes. He actually made first class but of course he wasn't as flashy as the first classes of today. But…he still fought in this war. And…ultimately died in it too."
He grew quiet for a moment, looking at the popcorned ceiling. "Mom sees it as my duty to take his place," he mumbled. "Not to mention, army pay is a guaranteed thing. Success is only limited to how much effort I put into it, unlike a company where you could bust your balls in investments and come an economic shift, you're down and out. I understand what she's saying, but…"
Zack nodded from his spot on the bed, having stopped unpacking to listen to him. "I understand. It's still not what you want to do."
Breaking the somber mood, Kunsel grinned. "Meh, it's not but hey, she's my mom. Don't think I could stand having her pissed at me for all eternity. Besides, there's other ways to get my tech fix and still make her happy too." He lifted up the headphones attached to the device he'd been wearing and grinned. Lowering his voice further, he asked in a sly voice, "Know what this thing is?"
"Better question, do I really want to know what that is?" Zack countered.
"I'd say you would," Kunsel replied, undaunted. "It's…a voice magnifier. Works up to fifty yards. Just stand in a spot and listen. It looks like a handheld music device so nobody knows what it really is upon just looking at it."
"You know what…I don't think I wanted to know that," the raven replied, shaking his head in disbelief. "Did you really bring spy gear into Shinra? You're frickin' crazy! And…" Here he looked up at the corners of the room and lowered his voice self-consciously. "How do you know there aren't any cameras or mics in here?"
The other boy waved him off, that sly grin getting ever bigger. "Because I checked. They actually do respect the privacy of us within our rooms. It's the hallways and everywhere else that you have to be careful of. Trust, I did my research before coming here."
Zack could only blink at him in sheer amazement. The balls this boy had to pull something like this off! "And so why aren't you in the spy division? Seems like a waste of talent being in the combat field."
"You learn a little some of everything in SOLDIER," Kunsel replied. He sat up suddenly and plunked himself down in front of his computer. He typed for a second before pulling back to reveal the Shinra homepage. "Sure, there are specific departments for those that join. Some guys apply directly for the Science Department, or others for the Engineering Department…but being a SOLDIER makes you a bit well-rounded with all of that. The Science Department issues the mako that's infused in SOLDIERS. And naturally you're going to be expected to know how to operate at least the most basic of machinery. You get the best of all departments while only being in one."
"Uh-huh…and fighting?" Zack asked with a raised eyebrow. "If someone so much as blew on you, you'd tumble over!"
Another shrug. "I'll deal with that road when I get to it. Now come on, it's time to be social butterflies." Kunsel switched off the monitor and hopped up with a stretch.
"Wait, what? Meet and greet with everyone?" Zack frantically dug through his clothes to find something a little more decent to throw on.
"If you're one for wardrobe crisis's, just toss on the 3rd rank SOLDIER uniform," Kunsel suggested. "Most guys are probably gonna be wearing that for the orientation but I'm holding off for now, enjoying my last few moments of being a civilian."
Zack grinned and set aside his clothes. Fuck it, he'd go in what he was wearing anyways, simple jeans and a t-shirt. "Hate to break it to you, buddy, but you stopped being a civilian when you signed your name on that dotted line when you stepped into that recruitment tent. They own your ass now!"
"Oh nooes!" Kunsel cried dramatically and together they doubled over laughing while shuffling towards the door. "Do I need to get a tattoo on my rear that says 'property of Shinra'?"
"Sure! It'll make great for war stories to the grandkids." Zack locked the dorm room behind him and swung his key happily on his finger as they made their way to the auditorium. Already he had a friend under his belt and at least for now, the future looked bright.
First class SOLDIER, here I come!