Shinra Inc. And Reading
by: Jason Tandro
Rufus sat in the place where he felt like he most belonged. It was, after all, a work day. He had, by pure chance, been able to pull his company out from the ruins of bankruptcy and brought it back stronger than ever. In these tough times of transition and adjustment, the company would need a responsible and capable leader to help return the company to its former glory. And that leader would have to work at the success of the company day and night without rest.
Therefore Rufus promoted Reeve to Vice President and was himself sitting in the Employee Lounge watching a daytime soap opera.
His only company was the teary-eyed Scarlet who swooned over every proclamation of love, gasped at every revelation of betrayal, and wept at every heart-breaking moment. The problem was that this show had so many of each that Scarlet sounded like a tea-kettle boiling over and it would have bothered Rufus if he himself wasn't doing almost the same thing himself.
"I can't believe Yoko is going to keep the baby. Han treats her like crap!" Scarlet whined.
"Seriously! He can't even keep himself straight let alone take care of her kid!" Rufus agreed.
Scarlet sniffed a little and continued. "I just wish Jo would come out already and tell Doza that she loves him. How come Yoko and Han get together but those two don't?!"
"Jo's got baggage. Really it's all Lee's fault," Rufus pointed out.
"Yeah, but I thought Lee was with Clair," Scarlet asked.
"No that was just a misunderstanding, Clair went off with Koji," Rufus amended.
"Enjoying your chat?" Came a voice from the doorway. It was, as it always was, Reeve.
"Slacking off again, I see," Rufus said. "Shouldn't you be working?"
Reeve looked around the room. "I'm sorry were you talking to me?"
"And you don't pay attention anymore either," Rufus grunted.
"I was being ironic. What are you doing?" Reeve asked.
"I was trying this thing out where I insult you so that you leave me alone and forget to insult me," Rufus explained.
"That's not what I meant, and telling you to do your job is not insulting you. Nor is it a compliment. It falls under the category of telling you to do your job," Reeve said.
"Jeez you talk a lot man," Rufus whined. "People are trying to watch TV."
Reeve, who took this as his queue to stop trying to better his boss, walked over behind the couch and looked at the television.
"Oh god, not this show again!" Reeve sighed.
"I like it!" Rufus exclaimed defensively.
"Am I to understand then that the book series I lent you has remained-"
"Completely untouched. It's not my fault, there's been a marathon of this all week. All leading up to the series finale. We're finally going to learn who Inoba's parents are," Rufus said.
"Who's Inoba?" Reeve asked.
"No idea, but I can't wait to find out!" Rufus exclaimed.
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
The conference room had also remained mostly untouched for the past few months. The only meeting they had felt the need to have since the reformation of the company was a welcome back party for Tseng and Elena following their honeymoon.
Rufus was, as usual, the last one to enter the conference room and seemed like he was still half-asleep. "Okay thank you all," he let out an enormous yawn, "for coming today. Let's get started."
Rufus sat down at his usual chair and glanced around at everybody. He sat at the head of the table. Across from him sat Reeve, looking slightly puzzled. To Rufus's left sat his Turks, who acted as his security and heads of peace-keeping and intelligence. There were the newlywed Tseng and Elena, the inseparable duo of Rude and Reno (forever linked by their love of wine, women and more wine), and the newly returned Cissnei.
On his right sat his actual staff. There was Heidegger, the head of his military and peace-keeping, including the Turks. Next to him sat Heidegger's BFF Palmer. While both men shared similar philosophy and mindset, not to mention obese stature, one was important to the company and one was not. Palmer was the latter. Next to Palmer was Scarlet, head of weapons development. Beside her was possibly the only person in the company smarter than her, Professor Hojo. His creepy nature and lack of all but a rudimentary interpretation of humanity notwithstanding, he was brilliant.
Oh and yes, there was another newcomer. Geneva, an old friend of Reeve's had agreed to come on as the new head of the legal department. She was, for the most part, an unknown quantity in these meetings and it made Rufus feel slightly disoriented having her in the picture.
"So..." Rufus took one more scan of the room. Something was off. What was it? Everybody was here. He had all of their attention. Something was wrong and he couldn't quite shake it. Then, came Reeve to the rescue.
"Sir, you didn't call this meeting, I did," Reeve explained.
Rufus sighed. "Thank goodness, I thought I was having that underwear nightmare all over again!"
"Well rest assured you haven't walked in without your pants. At least not this week," Reeve shrugged.
"I don't know. I think pants-less might make an interesting new dress code. Boxers for business, swim trunks for missions," Reno began.
"Thongs for casual fridays," Rude added.
"Uh maybe just for the ladies," Reno amended who happened to, unfortunately, be looking at Palmer and not Scarlet when Rude added his comment.
"You boys are charming as always," Cissnei grunted. "So why'd you call us here boss?"
"Yes Reeve, is this just one of those flexing your new authority things? Because really I have important work to get back to," Hojo said.
"Important work?" Heidegger asked. "You were just playing 'injection roulette' with some lab rats!"
Hojo blustered. "It's- that is- all in, you know- um. For science!"
"Do all your meetings take this long to get going?" Geneva asked Reeve.
"Sometimes we never actually get to the meeting," Reeve explained. "Hey! Let's finish up what I was gonna say so we can all get back to our work, pointless ponderances and... well blatant disregard for Bosker's animal rights legislature."
Bosker, Rufus thought. Now there's a crazy hippie who might liven up this party a bit.
"So what are we here for?" Tseng asked.
"Well, it's not exactly business-related-" as it seemed like he was going to lose the crowd again to idle chit-chat he spoke up. "but I think it does impact the welfare of the company if our employees are enriching themselves!"
"Enriching themselves?" Rufus asked. "You're speaking my language. So what are we talking? Rate hike? Pointless pay increase? Or should we maybe get Geneva out of the room and talk more seriously."
"Thank you, Rufus, for pointing out why exactly we need this. I believe that we have been very lax of late in doing activities that will actually benefit ourselves. Tseng and Elena have their online game, Scarlet, Palmer, Heidegger, Reno, Rude, Cissnei I know you all go out to bars and movies quite frequently. And even Hojo has stopped doing actually experiments and has reduced himself to... well whatever it is he does after one of the lab rats gets the 'Deathanol' vial."
[Author's Note: See Shinra Inc. And the Conference Call]
"Well there is a mourning period," Hojo explains.
"At any rate, I feel like there is no greater and more enriching pastime than the reading of books," Reeve explained. "I would like to see all of you here to just try giving one book or book series a chance this week."
"You want to pay us to sit on our ass and read a book?" Reno asked.
"Well actually, I'd want you to do it on your own ti-"
"Hell yeah I'm down for that. A week of no missions, free booze and only slightly boring entertainment. I can do that!" Reno nodded.
"Not a bad idea, Reeve. You loaned me those books. What were they called again, The Starving Games? I'll just read through those," Rufus said.
"I've wanted to try out Sparkling Vampire Teen Love Drama. I've heard good things," Scarlet said.
"Ooh! I'll read that with you!" Elena said. "Will you read with us too Tseng?"
"My marital vows were to love, honor and obey. But no, I won't be reading that," Tseng grunted. He looked over at Reeve. "I'll find something else man."
"Pfft. If I gotta read, I want it to be something that will pique my interest. 50 Pages of Bondage Smut for me," Reno said.
"Ditto," Cissnei said.
"Whatever means 'me too'," Rude nodded.
"Okay well the rest of you all find a book and get reading," Reeve nodded.
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
The first couple of days went by fairly well. Not for the company, which surprisingly had a shaky week with its top officers unable to be disturbed, but for Reeve's little side-project. Reeve himself had chosen to read a good old-fashioned high fantasy novel, and a friend of his had recommended A Tale of Flame and Frost. It was actually a series of novels and the first one, Sport of Crowns was engrossing... if not a bit tedious.
Tedious, that is, until about 50 pages in when Reeve began to realize the book may be famous for something besides its captivating story and characters.
"You okay Reeve?" Geneva asked, walking in on Reeve in the cafe.
"There is a lot," Reeve flipped through a few more pages, "a whole lot of sex in this book."
"They made a TV show of it, obviously the book had a lot of sex. Probably has more sex in it than the book that the Turks are reading," Geneva shrugged.
"You've read it?"
"Oh yeah. For your little project I'm reading a mystery novel, but I read that in college," Geneva explained. "May have messed with my expectations of romance a bit."
Reeve chuckled. "Yeah, it is hard to go from modern college life and then read a book like this where it's basically: 'hey something mildly important happened, we should screw.'"
Geneva smirked. "Don't knock it until you've tried it."
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
Reno drummed his fingers on the side of his head. Rude was just about to pass out. Cissnei was the only person who seemed alert. They were all together in the gym, but for some reason were the only ones there. Reno finally grew exasperated and punched a nearby punching bag.
"When the hell does this get to the good shit?" Reno complained.
"What are you talking about?" Cissnei asked.
"The sex, the filth, the things that I should probably be more concerned that I find erotic," Reno explained.
"The writer is building up mood and tone. She's telling a story which will make the fun parts much more enjoyable, trust me," Cissnei said.
"If I wanted a good story I would have read a good book," Rude commented before letting the book fall on his face and slowly drifting off to sleep.
"Oh you guys just don't appreciate good literature when you read it," Cissnei sighed. "All you care about is the cheap thrill."
"Oh quit acting all high and mighty. The only reason people read this book is because of the cheap thrill!" Reno said.
"Correction. The only reason why most people read the book is the cheap thrill. Some of us actually are able to enjoy it for what it is. If pornography is an art form than this book is the Da Chao," Cissnei explained.
"Whatever you have to tell yourself," Reno shrugged.
Cissnei calmly set the book down and then walked over to him. Rude was asleep and they were alone, which is why Cissnei felt no hesitation in removing her jacket.
"Okay, numbskull, let's try to make this a bit more real for you. We both know that you can, and do, get a woman in your bed every night. It means nothing for either of you. But let's say that somebody like me," Cissnei unbuttons her top button and slowly slides off her tie, "who you see all the time is constantly vexing you. Constantly driving you mad with anger."
Reno lets the book fall out of his hands. Cissnei grabs her tie and wraps it around Reno's shoulders, pulling his head closer to her chest. "But behind that anger, maybe there's something else. A burning passion. You don't want to destroy her, oh no. That's far too simple. You want to possess her. You want to," Cissnei falls to her knees, releasing one end of the tie and letting it slither down Reno's front, "dominate her."
Reno is still rendered speechless, which is just as well because Cissnei has no intention of stopping for questions.
"And then to simply take her one night doesn't seem like enough. No, first you have to break her. Teach her her proper place. And then," Cissnei places her hand on Reno's belt buckle, " when the moment is just right..."
Reno looks down at Cissnei. She smirks.
"Coffee break," Cissnei says, pushing Reno back and standing up. She puts her tie and jacket back on and heads to the bar.
Reno furiously skips through the pages of his book. "Damn it, devil woman..."
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
"Reeve, you have to call this damn thing off," Hojo insists when he is able to corner Reeve in his office.
"Can't find anything you enjoy reading?" Reeve asked. "It was only optional anyways, but if you want help I'm sure I can-"
"It's not that you imbecile. I read through Lfiestream Theoretical Physics. Figured I'd treat myself to a bit of levity, you know. But Scarlet and Elena are going to drive me mad," Hojo says.
"Why? That Sparkling Vampire Teen Love Drama book?" Reeve asked. "Well it does seem a bit childish, but how does it affect you?"
Hojo leans in close to Reeve and says each word as though it costs him a great pain to utter them.
"They... keep... talking about it..." he groans. "They talk about the scenes they like, which is just about every damn scene in the book. Which sucks, by the way. And if that's not enough they don't shut up about the two male leads. Jimmy and Bimmy or something. And Scarlet is Team Jimmy but Elena is a die-hard Team Bimmy person. I don't get how teams can form over a book. The book is written and the outcome is final. All the losing team is doing is continually rooting for the losing team, like the rebels in the Midgar Civil War. But you know, they talk about it, and that's about the only time I've heard them argue. Everything else is all smiles and sunshine and for God's sake it's a story about vampires that sparkle! Why do vampires sparkle?! I've bred some vampires. They try to drain your blood and melt in direct sunlight. You know what they don't do?! Date some stupid teenage bimbo and most definitely THEY DO NOT FREAKING SPARKLE!"
Hojo finally seemed to calm down after getting all that off of his chest. He actually seemed a bit weary and sat down on Reeve's couch.
"I think I need a little nap," Hojo said. And with that, he passed out almost instantly.
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
Heidegger and Palmer had gone their usual route of doing just about everything together and for their book Palmer had suggested, of course, a sci-fi novel. Granted its not as though they spent too much time actually reading the book as for one they had both read it when they were in high school. And, of course, they had already made a movie out of It Came From Over There.
"The production value on this is amazing," Heidegger said. "And you say this took over three years to complete?"
"Great detail was given to making sure it was as true to the book as realistically possible," Palmer said.
Heidegger flipped through the pages. "I don't remember reading about the alien hookers."
"Hmm... yes it does seem like they had to spice this up for the viewing audience," Palmer sighed. "I just don't get it. I mean I understand that you'll have to make some changes when converting books to movies, but why make stupid changes?"
"Well I suppose they are aiming at different people," Heidegger offered. "And besides it's not exactly a bad change- they showed this in theatres?!"
The alien hookers had begun to do something that you would definitely not see in a PG rated film. Palmer walked over and picked up the DVD box.
"Oh there's our problem. I accidentally picked up It Came All Over There," Palmer said.
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
The week came to an end and the group rejoined in the Conference Room.
"So, what did everybody think?" Reeve asked.
"So much better than a soap," Scarlet said, still puffy-eyed.
Elena sat beside her. "So much!"
"Ah. What about you Turks?" Reeve asked.
"I've never read a porn and been bored before. I guess there's a first time for everything. If I wanted to spend a week with no sexual stimulation whatsoever, I'd sleep overnight in the office with the internet turned off," Reno grunted.
"Ditto that," Rude nodded. "The characters weren't even likeable and I found the plot was a bit meandering."
"Oh you guys suck," Cissnei grunted.
"We enjoyed our space novel," Palmer said.
"Although I daresay we enjoyed the movie a bit more," Heidegger chuckled.
"Hmm," Reeve rubbed his chin. "Tseng what did you end up reading?"
Tseng folded his arms. "Um... Elena roped me into reading Sparkling Vampire Teen Love Drama."
"Oh. And?" Reeve asked.
Tseng looked over at his teary-eyed wife and then back to Reeve. "I refuse to testify on the grounds that my testimony may incriminate myself... and land me in the doghouse."
Elena frowned but Reeve continued. "Well I know what Geneva and Hojo read. That just leaves Rufus. Where is he? I know he's usually late, but he should be here by now."
"Did you check his office?" Palmer asked.
"I was just there, he's not in. Figured he was on his way down," Reeve explained.
"Wait. He read The Starving Games?" Scarlet asked.
"Yes," Reeve nodded.
"And did he finish The Starving Games?" Scarlet continued.
"Uh, to my knowledge yes. He seemed to be getting pretty far along in it," Reeve said.
"We'd better head to his room," Scarlet said.
*~SI&~*Shinra Inc. And*~SI&~*
The tiny room that for some reason Rufus found comfortable barely fit Reeve, Scarlet, Tseng and Elena in. The rest had to wait outside. Rufus was laying with his face buried in his pillow, the last book of The Starving Games was laying beside him, very badly dog-eared.
"Rufus, what's wrong?" Elena asked kindly.
Rufus turned his head slightly to the side. He was still actively sobbing. "It was... t-the best book I've e-ever," he hiccuped, "r-read."
"Oh. Well that's-"
"Why did it have to end like that?! The first time I actually care about anything it ends so miserably!" Rufus cried.
"Calm down dude, it's not real," Cissnei sighed.
Rufus threw his pillow out the door at her. He missed Cissnei and ended up hitting Hojo, who took it in good stride and handed the pillow back to Tseng who placed it beside his bed.
"But you said it was good right?" Reeve asked.
Rufus sat up. "Yeah, I guess so. It was just so sad though."
"Sometimes books are sad."
"Did you have to start me out with something like that though? Now I never want to read again," Rufus hiccuped again.
"If you want to put the nail in that particular coffin I'll loan you my copy of 50 Pages of Bondage Smut," Reno offered.
"Give it a rest already, jeez!" Cissnei hissed.
And with that, Geneva made a mental note to attend as few company meetings as humanly possible.