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The Secrets of Esper
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June 2007
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Reeve Tuesti [userpic]

Who: Kefka and Reeve
When: Before Kefka and Sigurd's jungle jaunt
Where: Kefka's office
What: Pleading and bullying
Warning: None this post
Status: Complete!

Being back at work was... nice, to say the least. Thanks to a new round of tranquilizers, General Palazzo could comfortably sit behind his desk for hours at a time, taking phone calls, rifling through field reports, and basically catching up on work. There would be a new batch of recruits arriving that spring, fresh from the Academy, so that meant advancements, changes to his units, losing some, winning some.. but in no way was it stressful. The petite General knew that this was the work he'd been cut out to do--at least, when he wasn't at the base. Doctor's orders required that he stay away from the headquarters for another two weeks, when his next checkup would guarantee that he was mentally able to handle being around rowdy soldiers.

It was obviously a little-known fact that the soldiers knew better than to act undisciplined in his presence.

Blank blue eyes skimmed over the words on the page, a smile arriving, unbidden, to his pink lips. Oh, yes. They all knew better than to irritate their crazy little commander. A manicured hand tapped idly on one of the many maps spread out on his desk, gaze switching between the dispatchment request and the spot circled near Ultima. Scared of the natives. Everyone was scared of the damned natives. They wanted the security of SOLDIER, to insure that if any of those curious or terrified people came near the forcefields, they would be immediately and violently removed from this plane of existence.

The General snorted as he reached for his pen, blue coat sleeve dragging across the expanse of the drawn coordinates. To the Department of Public Safety: After carefully and thoroughly examining your request for immediate deployment of three units of SOLDIER to the specified locations, I must respectfully decline. At this time, there is no immediate threat to the residents of this particular area, nor is there a need to weaken central support in order to give peace of mind to paranoia and propaganda. White teeth tapped on the edge of the pen, one eyebrow arching gracefully. How did one refuse the panicked?

Reeve stood at the door to General Palazzo's office, a sheaf of papers in hands, and took a deep breath. The general opinion among his support staff was that he was suicidal, and at times he had to wonder if they were right.

But even Professor Allegro had commented on the deaths surrounding construction of the Ultima-Meteor line, and Reeve knew the time to do something was now, during the rainy season, so that they could have preparations to protect the workers in place when construction began again. And quite frankly, he'd received one too many form-rejection letters from the leaders of SOLDIER. Members of this company, however unimportant, were dying, and he wouldn't stand for it in his department. If SOLDIER wasn't going to do their job, well, maybe he'd call in outside forces and let General "I must respectfully decline" Palazzo justify the unbudgeted expenditures at the next board meeting.

Of course, that thought was often followed by a remembrance that this was General Palazzo he was choosing to bicker with. Some mornings, Reeve wondered why he'd gotten out of bed.

Taking a deep breath, he rapped sharply on the door.

His tiny hand stopped, gloved fingers rearranging themselves slowly along the pen. He didn't have anything scheduled. This he knew for a fact. General Kefka Palazzo didn't make mistakes--the medication saw to that. From beneath a fringe of fine blonde, he stared incredulously at the door, just willing the poor bastard to open it without being invited. Since this visitor hadn't made an appointment, that could only mean it was some chump from who-knows-what department, carrying who-knows-what documents, ready to whine about something he honestly could care less about. Now that he was back from medical leave, he had better things to do than please any authority outside of SOLDIER. He reached up to subconsciously straighten his cravatte and the lapels of his navy blue coat, idly toying with the gold fringe before forcing himself to be still. The current situation is in no way dangerous, and what issues that have befallen the area in question require assistance from local law enforcement, not the backbone of Esper's armed tactical division.

He turned his attention back to the rejection letter, only partially interested in the person outside his door. He was rather good at pretending to listen anyway. "Come in," came his deceptive voice, too low for a woman, too high for a man. Best get this over with before it started getting too much later, else he'd be very cranky while his medication wore off.

Reeve waited patiently to be invited before opening the door; he wasn't stupid. And it wasn't his fault he didn't have an appointment; his previous one had been canceled when the General had gone on medical leave. Rescheduled for "the General's earliest convenience." Which was, he believed, now. And so he was here.

Reeve opened the door and stepped in, remaining in place until he was invited to advance further. "General Palazzo? Reeve Tuesti, from the department of Urban Development." He never gave his title along with his name; those who needed to know knew, and it felt too much like bragging. "I was directed to speak to you about troop allocations on the construction sights for the Ultima-Meteor railway." Several years with Shin-Ra had left Reeve, if not comfortable with the other executive members, at least well trained to speak with them. Of course, when said executive member knew thirty one ways to break you with his delicate and beautifully manicured pinky-finger, it was still rather intimidating.

The sigh that exited his lips could be clearly interpreted as "not one of you people", although his face never even twitched to indicate that he was irritated in the least. His delicate brow lifted, causing one crease in the center of his forehead; it would have been polite to glance up immediately, but he had a signature to finish with, then a date. This man could wait for proper formalities until the blonde was done with his work. "I have spoken with many people concerned with the direction of my troops." There was slight emphasis on the word 'my', which was easy to miss unless one was listening for it. "On many occasions."

He set his letter to one side, pen on the other, then lifted his pixie-like face, a most predatory smile crossing his lips at the sight of the executive. Both little hands steepled together a few inches in front of him, heels of his palms resting directly on the desk, elbows arranged symmetrically, and with a slight toss of his head, the long blonde ponytail dangled perfectly down the center of his back. As well as the man spoke, the General couldn't be intimidated by him in the least--he was far too.. homely. Emotionless blue eyes bored directly into the other's, lips quirking as he shot out his next comment. "Perhaps you have not received the dozen or so refusals I have personally written. If you would leave me a way to contact you, I will gladly send one out."

Reeve refused to be goaded, remaining calm. "Thank you, sir, but no. That is precisely why I'm here. The rate of death among employees on the line has grown exponentially with each passing month. The situation is unacceptable; our workers need protection." Translation: The average cost of settlement has grown higher than the cost of paying soldiers. Luckily, Reeve knew the economics (and therefore the administration) were behind him on this, so he felt more comfortable in his assertions.

The little General's eye gave a visible twitch, both eyebrows lifting slowly, and that forced expression of politeness melted into one of utmost irritation. There was a blaring cardinal rule that went unspoken when one dealt with Kefka Palazzo: you never, ever second-guessed his judgment. Especially to his face.

"Mr. Tuesti, the continuous disappearance of your workers is not the problem of my department, but whomever is responsible for the training of your employees. I have explained it numerous times, and it appears that nothing sticks-- SOLDIER has more pressing business elsewhere. We cannot send a battalion out to your work sites every time one of those people decides to desert their jobs." Beneath his desk, one leg curled over the other, and that stare never wavered, testing to see how long it would be before the other man looked away. "Do I make myself clear?"

A similar expression was appearing on Reeve's face, but he kept his expression bland. "With all do respect, I have a multitude of reports from independent contractors, executives, SOLDIERS first class,and TURKS stating otherwise. They are not disappearing, sir, nor are they deserting. Unless they're severing their own limbs before doing so. However, if we do not start offering them some protection, they will begin deserting." Reeve never took his eyes away from Kefka's -- he might be "homely," in the other man's opinion, but he was damn stubborn and he was not going to crumble on this issue."I wouldn't be here if all we needed were a glorified police force."

"That is exactly what you need," he replied curtly, giving a dainty curl of his fingers, "Until you can give me undeniable proof that this piddly patrolling job is indeed worthy of a hundred or so of top-notch, hand-picked, professional soldiers trained personally by myself or one of the other two Generals, I am going to consider your request frivolous. Do you know what is 'carrying' off your workers? Do you have pictures for me? Do you have the slightest clue what my soldiers are going to be looking for?"

It was barely noticeable at first, but with every word spoken, his voice rose in volume, the crease in the center of his forehead growing deeper. No one had the gall to challenge him like this, and he wasn't about to let anyone start getting away with it. "Toss your economics at me as if I have no idea that your company is losing money--I could not care less. I will not have my men standing out in the wilderness just to pick off wolves."

"Did you even look at the sketches in the original report?" Reeve was growing equally frustrated, but he clamped it down, keeping his voice level. "We're not talking about a simple pack of wolves here, you have to allow that! There was tracking information -- Crime scene sketches -- All the data we have gathered, you have."

"Have you considered arming them?" he asked simply, turning in his seat to pull out the aforementioned pictures, which were stashed neatly away in one of his many filing cabinets. From his position, he could reach the middle, and tugged it out halfway, white glove dancing over the ridges of manila and crisp white sheets until he found the appropriate file. With a tiny huff, he plucked it from its place, elbowed the drawer closed, then spread the contents all over the top of his desk. "None of the creatures that are accounted for have any natural resistance to Mako weaponry."

"They're lousy shots," Reeve answered frankly. "Or they forget their weapons, or don't use them properly." He tried not to be too hopeful, but it appeared the General was finally willing to at least discuss the situation. "They're not soldiers, they're day laborers... and they're terrified out of their minds, which makes them all the less likely to defend themselves properly."

"I still fail to see a need for SOLDIER to be involved," he murmured after glancing over the sketches, gloved finger sliding down the center of a picture on top, "Would it not make more sense to upgrade weapons, set out more policemen..."

Light blue eyes, without highlight, without emotion, flicked up to meet Reeve's, holding another unwavering stare. "Unless it is the name you require. In that case, I can have SOLDIER uniforms sent to the policemen already deployed in the area, and your little workmen can have their peace of mind."

Any hope Reeve had that the general was coming around crashed and burned. He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and trying to remain calm. "I don't think shinier uniforms are going to intimidate anyone here. Sir."

Damnit... Hojo had nasties running around, and he got as many and whichever SOLDIERs he asked for. Reeve tried not to growl and pinched his nose a little tighter. "Just a small squad. It wouldn't take more than a week and the problem would be solved."

Ah, good. He was getting in the man's head. Soon, he'd snap, Kefka could call security, have the man thrown out, then finish up what he'd been doing beforehand.

However... He seemed incredibly interested in the prospect of not having to deal with these people anymore. If he did offer his SOLDIERs for a week, and everything was solved, there would be no more rejection letters, whining executives, or rude barging-ins. Less paperwork. That hateful stare gradually lowered back to the rejection letter he'd scrawled out, the blonde leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers together. "Theoretically... if I were to give you, say... a division of fifty SOLDIERs, with a week-long transfer of order on them.. Just how would you use them to rectify the situation?"

The one thing Reeve would never do was snap enough to merit a call to security. The man would never have mad it this far in ShinRa if his breaking point was really so early.

"Speaking on a purely hypothetical basis, I'd keep divide the into teams of 10. During the day, I'd use four of the squads to track and locate whatever -- or whomever," he allowed, "is doing this. The fifth squad would stand guard on the site at night, when the attacks have been, by and large. The current police force seems adequate enough for protection during the day. And the attacks are frequent enough that, one way or another, we should be able to locate the beasts and dispatch them within the given time-frame.

It sounded like a wonderful idea, but he'd been involved with the military long enough to know that operations such as these rarely, if ever, went off without a hitch. "What vehicles might you need? Which weapons are preferred?" he asked in a slow, singsong manner, his lovely head cocking awkwardly to the left as though he was trying to listen to a child who stood at his side, "Certainly you would not want to send my SOLDIERs to fight some monstrosity without the necessary provisions. And so quickly..? Honestly, Mr. Tuesti.. I do not see how this can be done in a week."

Reeve raised an eyebrow. "Oh, good!" he chirped cheerily. "Are you offering to extend the orders to a month?"

"Hardly," he replied haughtily, rolling his eyes as he lifted a dainty hand to investigate the back of his hand, "You see, Mr. Tuesti, you and your department have been giving me quite a headache these past few days, and I wish to be done with you as quickly and.. permanently as possible. And you told me a week--did you not? A small division, one week, and you stop wasting my time. Were those not your terms?"

"Yes, they were. And unless the reports of SOLDIER's competence have been grossly over exaggerated -- which I'm sure is not the case -- a week will be all the time necessary to put an end to this. So that we may, as you put it, 'quit wasting your time'."

"How very considerate of you." He reached for a notepad, thumbing through a few of the pages before settling on a blank one. His pen scrawled the other man's last name on the first line, then stilled, waiting for other specifics. "The work site is rather expansive... and the surrounding forest is dense. Seventy-five SOLDIER should be plenty, as well as a few all-terrain vehicles... our order will last for twelve days, and if you fail to take care of the situation in that amount of time, you will have to take your complaints elsewhere. Does this compute, Mr. Tuesti?"

Reeve was trying not to do a glee-dance. "Absolutely, sir. I'm sure the situation will be resolved in that time frame." Must. not. cheer. Not until he had the order in his hands and had made copies and had it notarized JUST IN CASE.

His pen paused, an eyebrow lifting oh-so-slightly. "Mr. Tuesti... if so much as one of my men lose their lives during this mission, I will hold you personally responsible. And you will not enjoy what all that entails." Frowning, he raised his gaze again, making eye contact to prove that he wasn't trying only to intimidate this time. He was dead serious. "Their safety is priority, so make sure your commanders know what they are doing. You do understand what I am saying, do you not?"

"Yes, sir. Of course." He refrained from pointing out their respective values on human life throughout this conversation. "I will also, of course, defer to the SOLDIER chain of command at all times. Your men are trained to do their job, I'll not tell them how to do it."

What the other probably failed to realize was that the man across from him could care less about civilian lives, the lives of the upper class, the lower class, the natives... To him, there was the military and collateral damage. Only. One did not last in his position if human life and morals were put before duty. "Since you made such an intelligent comment," he added, sliding his left hand into the top drawer of his desk for a business card, "Then you will have access to the business line of my home phone numbers.. in all three cities. Your best bet will be to call the Ultima number first."

The tiny paper was yellow. Pastel yellow. On the upper right hand corner was the imprinted SOLDIER emblem; beneath that was his name, followed by a series of three phone numbers, an 'O', 'U', or 'M' added to the side to indicate which belonged to which city. Everything was queerly finished in dark blue cursive print. He stared at the card for a moment, then flipped it over, hastily printing a final number on the back. "Use this only if Hell itself has erupted at the work sites." He held his card out between two fingers, head cocking to his side. "When will you need the order?"

Reeve knew Kefka had no regard for anyone outside of his command, but that didn't mean Reeve had to accept or agree with that train of thought. He was cautious as he accepted the card. "Thank you," he said softly, rather unnerved by the show of trust.

All right. Trust was an overstatement. The show of...tolerance.

"As soon as is convenient for you. The site is on hold for now, so the situation will not change." Unless the animals, deterred from their usual snacking point, took to the towns -- but even the President wouldn't be able to ignore that.

Tolerance really was the best word for it. There was one person in the world that Kefka trusted, and Reeve had an eye too many to be considered anywhere close. "I shall write this up tonight and have it sent to your office in the morning. You are to read over it, bring it back with any changes, and then I will sign. Whatever amendments you choose to make will effect how soon you get what you wish for."

His petite mouth spread into a smile--it wasn't friendly, but was missing the bite it held earlier. It was polite, if anything. "Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Tuesti."

Reeve nodded. "Of course. I look forward to seeing it tomorrow." He smiled back, but there was a definite edge of relief in his -- that it was over, that he'd actually made SOME progress with the situation. "Thank you for your time." Amazingly enough, coming from Reeve, that didn't sound like a platitude, but actually very sincere. Well, no one valued time more than Reeve. He still had those calculations to slow the rotation of the planet stashed under his desk, in case his campaign for the 30 hour day ever caught popularity.

That done, Kefka climbed to his feet, pushing his papers back into their folder. It was rather amusing--at his full height, Kefka's head would strike somewhere below Reeve's shoulder. Threatening, hateful, spiteful, and remorseless as he might have been, General Palazzo was tiny. Those blue eyes moved to another of his desk drawers, from which he fetched his wallet and holsters, setting to strapping the latter around each of his thighs. Once he straightened up, he sent a curious glance to Reeve, his face obviously reading "You're still here?". "It is lunchtime, Mr. Tuesti. Unless you plan on taking me out, please step to the side. You are in my way."

Reeve raised an eyebrow, moving out of the way. He wasn't foolish enough to think he could take the general in a fight, despite their height difference. He moved out of the way. "After you, sir."

...Although when he considered it, it wasn't like he was the tallest person on the planet.

He'd have a snicker when he got back to his office.