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COI - Ficlet: Purge - Convolutions of an Evil Mind
madamhydra
madamhydra
COI - Ficlet: Purge
A rather odd little ficlet depicting a slightly darkish Zack. I'm not sure if this story will make sense to readers because there's so much subtext and things implied (but left unspoken) floating around. If I'm being too obscure, let me know so I can try to fix it. ^_^;;

Title: Purge
Author: MadamHydra
Beta: none, very rough draft
Fandom: FF7 AU (COIverse)
Type: ficlet
Pairing/Characters: Sephiroth, Zack
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: ~2200
Warnings: none
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and all related prequels and sequels belong to Square-Enix.

Summary: A pensive Sephiroth, and an interesting insight into the SOLDIER culture in COI.

-----------------

Sephiroth gazed thoughtfully at the tall, brown-haired SOLDIER, First Class, standing in front of his desk.

"I've been informed that a member of the mission team is dead, Lieutenant Dorian."

"Yes, sir." Dorian's reply was crisp, but steady. Then again, Sephiroth hadn't expected the man to display any overt signs of anxiety or nervousness.

He glanced down at the report in his hands. "Lieutenant Vassar, SOLDIER, Second Class, in line for promotion to First Class."

"With the vigorous personal recommendation of General Harrington, his uncle," Zack murmured.

Sephiroth flicked a quick look at his second-in-command, who was leaning against the office wall with his habitual lazy grace.

"I see." And indeed, he did. "Lieutenant, please describe the details surrounding Vassar's unfortunate demise."

"We were sent to exterminate a pack of venosaurs who were attacking some fungus farms west of the Grasslands."

"The top brass certainly do like their mushrooms," Zack added brightly.

Dorian glanced over at Zack, but managed to hide any obvious signs of agreement or amusement.

Sephiroth glared at his SiC and Zack subsided, quite unabashed, at least for the moment.

"The monsters split up and we each went after a group. When Vassar failed to report in, we went to look for him," Dorian continued blandly.

"And what did you find?"

"It appears that he somehow fell into an extremely large nest of mutated carnivorous beetles, sir. By the time we located his body, there wasn't much left. Unfortunately, we had to fire the nest pretty thoroughly in order to recover the body."

The written report had duly noted that all that was left of Lieutenant Vassar was a few handfuls of heavily charred bones. How remarkably convenient.

Sephiroth leaned back in his chair, then said, "And would you care to speculate on a plausible explanation for Vassar's fall into this beetle nest, Lieutenant?"

Dorian shrugged. "Well, guys who are up for promotion tend to push themselves. Especially if they know they're borderline."

"And people who push themselves too hard tend to miss things and make careless mistakes. Is that what you're saying?"

"Yes, sir," Dorian replied, his voice mild. "The nest was pretty well hidden. Vassar probably didn't see it until it was too late."

Sephiroth glanced over at Zack, who had a grin on his face that could easily be interpreted as rueful sympathy for a fellow subordinate being grilled by their intimidating commander.

But Sephiroth knew better.

"Zack, do you have anything to add?"

When glowing violet-grey eyes blinked innocently at him, Sephiroth forced himself to suppress a snort. If he'd had any doubts about what was really going on, they were now gone.

"Nope. I wasn't there. But I do agree with Dorian that guys bucking for promotion can get a bit careless. Sad, but it happens," Zack answered with a nonchalant shrug.

"So the only logical conclusion from the reported facts is that Lieutenant Vassar was probably over-intent on pursuing his assigned quarry, which led to an unfortunate encounter with a nest of ravenous flesh-eating beetles. That encounter resulted in his death." He gave both Zack and Dorian a long steady look. "And there's absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise."

"That is correct, sir," Dorian said.

"Very well. Lieutenant, you're dismissed."

Dorian saluted crisply and left the office. Once they were alone, Sephiroth stared at Zack, who smiled amiably back.

"Carnivorous mutated beetles?" he said, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

"Oh yeah. Dorian even brought back a few specimens. To help warn people, you know. Nasty little buggers. I'm sure Heidegger and General Harrington will have no problem believing that several hundred of them could rip even a SOLDIER, Second Class, to shreds."

"Especially if that SOLDIER was somehow distracted or incapacitated at a critical moment," Sephiroth said drily.

He didn't doubt that Vassar was thoroughly incapacitated by the time the beetles got to him. Actually, Sephiroth was prepared to bet gil that the man had been already dead at that point. Taking out Vassar would've been easy for an experienced First Class like Dorian. All it required was a properly timed blitz attack, probably resulting in a broken neck, followed by tossing the body onto the nest. Not that there was any physical proof, between the beetles and a few high level fire spells, of that happening.

Again, how remarkably tidy.

"So Vassar was one of Heidegger's proteges?"

"Not really. But I'm sure Heidegger wouldn't mind pulling a few strings for a guy if it resulted in a First Class owing him some big favors." Still smiling, Zack ambled over to his desk, and propped a hip on it.

"But with Vassar's tragic and untimely death, the matter of favors owed, and to whom, is basically moot, is it?"

"Yup. I guess so," Zack replied with another shrug.

"You don't sound particularly upset or surprised that this happened."

"I'm not. If you make bad choices, you'd better be prepared for the consequences."

Translation -- Vassar was willing to play spy for Heidegger in exchange for a promotion to First Class. Zack had found out and made sure Dorian knew.

End result? One conveniently dead SOLDIER, Second Class.

He was certain that Dorian had acted on his own initiative, without any explicit prompting from Zack. Zack didn't ask others to do his dirty work -- he simply led by example. The exact same thing probably would've happened with any of the First Class SOLDIERs. It was simply Dorian's luck that he ended up with the first shot at the target. And being a First Class, Dorian had efficiently eliminated that target.

Sephiroth wondered if Heidegger or anyone else in the Shinra upper management had the slightest clue about what was happening among their elite SOLDIERs, especially the Firsts.

No, of course not.

It had taken him over a year to spot the pattern, and he had the advantage of being probably the only person on the Planet who could tell with a high level of certainty if a SOLDIER was lying or being deliberately evasive.

Very few people seemed to grasp the full implications of a SOLDIER's neuro-muscular enhancements, especially those present in First Class SOLDIERs like Zack and Dorian. Not only was a SOLDIER stronger and faster than ordinary humans, he had significantly enhanced senses and much finer body control. In other words, it was nearly impossible for non-enhanced humans to determine if a SOLDIER was telling the truth or not, with or without the use of lie detector tests and/or drugs.

Everything Dorian had told him was factually accurate, but Sephiroth could sense the subtle 'holes' in the story. There were things left unspoken, questions neatly sidestepped, and it wasn't the first time something like that had occurred with respect to a SOLDIER's death. Zack, for example, was a master at talking a lot and saying absolutely nothing.

Basically, the unspoken rule was that no one deemed unreliable or a threat was permitted to become a SOLDIER, especially not a SOLDIER, First Class. The psychological evaluations and military assessments were usually enough to screen out most of the people unfit for acceptance or promotion. However, there were always certain individuals who managed to slip through, thanks to nepotism, bribery, or other factors not covered by medical tests or skill evaluations. When that happened, the SOLDIERs took matters into their own hands to ensure that those individuals didn't get accepted or promoted. And if a training 'accident' or a fatality in the field was required, then so be it.

As for who decided who didn't belong in SOLDIER, the lower class SOLDIERs naturally took their clues from the SOLDIERs, First Class. And in turn, the First Classes naturally took their lead from Zack.

To Sephiroth, the practice made perfectly logical sense. It was better to eliminate potential weak links before they gained the strength of a SOLDIER or before a SOLDIER grew even stronger. As long as the SOLDIERs were careful and discrete in their activities, Sephiroth had no objections.

However, the realization that Zack was actively involved in several of these deaths -had- been a surprise, and perhaps even a bit of shock, because at first it seemed so unlike the Zack he knew to turn on a fellow soldier.

(But I was wrong. It's perfectly consistent with Zack's character.)

Zack didn't like hurting or killing people, but if it took cold-blooded murder to neutralize a threat, then cold-blooded murder it was. Zack was prepared to do whatever he deemed necessary to protect his own, a trait that he had amply displayed in Wutai.

He could understand why Zack would feel protective of his fellow SOLDIERs, especially the First Classes. They were his comrades and peers. No wonder, then, that Zack's allegiance should belong to them, his fellow predators, rather than Shinra, with its petty executives and bureaucrats.

Sephiroth would have been content with simply being part of Zack's pack. But for some unfathomable reason, Zack had chosen to consider Sephiroth not merely one of his own, but his first and foremost.

Try as he might, he couldn't understand why Zack had chosen to offer him, of all people on the Planet, such unconditional loyalty, friendship, and trust. It simply didn't make -sense-. He had certainly done nothing to deserve such consideration. And Sephiroth was all too aware that everything about him positively reeked of 'otherness' and danger.

Insanity on Zack's part seemed to be the only rational explanation. It was that, or maybe Zack just liked living dangerously.

But as Gast had once told him, one didn't need to fully understand a phenomena to appreciate it. Regardless of Zack's reasons for choosing him, Sephiroth was grateful... no, 'grateful' was a totally inadequate word for it....

A light flick across the bridge of his nose jerked Sephiroth's thoughts back to the present. He glared balefully at Zack, who grinned and made no attempt to conceal the chocobo feather in his hand. He didn't even bother trying to figure out why Zack would be carrying a chocobo feather around. Sometimes, the things Zack did made perfect sense, but other times....

"Zack, what do you think you're doing?" he said in exasperation.

He watched as his SiC dexterously twirled the long chocobo feather between his fingers in a perfect imitation of one of the standard sword drills, complete with guard positions, strikes, and slashes. And just with the sword drill, it ended with the tip of the long feather just brushing the underside of Sephiroth's chin.

"Gotcha!" Zack said with a chuckle, then cocked his head slightly. "You know, if this had been a knife, I could've nailed you a good one right between the eyes that first time." The feather moved upward to tap Sephiroth lightly on the nose.

"Congratulations on a unique accomplishment. Would you like a commendation for it?"

While his tone was sarcastic, he meant what he said... well, at least the first part. It -was- a unique accomplishment, and Zack was the only one capable of doing it. Not because Zack was the best of the SOLDIERs, but simply because he was Zack. With anyone else, Sephiroth would have never permitted himself to become so distracted as to allow himself to be tagged like that, even with a harmless bird feather.

"Nah. Even though the pay bonus would be nice," Zack said wistfully.

Jerking his head back from another playful swipe of the feather, Sephiroth growled, "Zack... go away and find something constructive to do." He rattled the sheaf of reports threateningly. "Unless you -want- to help me process these papers and deliver them personally to Heidegger?"

"You know, I'd love to, but I just remembered that I promised to take a look at the new group of SOLDIER candidates," Zack chattered quickly, sliding off the desk and hastily heading for the office door.

But just before he turned the doorknob, Zack stopped and casually added, "Heidegger wasn't the only guy Vassar was brown-nosing. Rumor has it that he wanted this promotion so badly, he was even willing to suck up to somebody high up in the Science Department." And with a jaunty salute with the chocobo feather, Zack disappeared out the door.

Translation - Vassar was willing to play spy for -Hojo-, which meant the ambitious Lieutenant had been a dead man walking as soon as Zack had found out.

Protective instincts, indeed.

"Thank you, Zack."

Alone in his office, Sephiroth finished carefully examining Dorian's mission report, making sure that there were nothing in it that might raise questions or trigger suspicions. Dorian, however, had done an excellent job of covering all the bases. Finally, he signed off on the report, then slipped it into an envelope for forwarding to Heidegger and any other interested parties.

Tags: , , , ,
Current Mood: anxious anxious

51 hisses or Hiss in my ear....
Comments
artimusdin From: artimusdin Date: March 10th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
.... this shouldn't give me the warm fuzzies. But it does. It so totally does. *squishes Zack close* *coos*
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, a touch ruthless, but he's still a sweetie! ::scritches Zack behind the ears::
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 10th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

^.^

Nice! 'gives 2 thumbs up' At first I was a speck confused, but I got what was going on by the end of it. Definitely interesting. Really showed a completely different way to look at Zack's character.

Ciao XP
Scarlet
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: ^.^

Thanks! I like my Zack nice, but also a little dangerous. ^_-
__perplexity__ From: __perplexity__ Date: March 10th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, satisfyingly confused!

Well no, not as such. Not confused at your writing, more intrigued by Zack's character. But intrigued in that way that makes you just grin ^-^

Great to read! I know I've mentioned it before but these little ficlets are genius for understanding things. They're like little easter eggs in a game or something that maybe you don't NEED to read, but feel privalaged (spl?) when you do~

(PS, I'm not sure if I've said it here or not, but have you seen The Shot from the new and improved Advent Children? Seph+masamunexCloud?)
darkatropos From: darkatropos Date: March 11th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Whew!

I agree with the thought about Zack's character. I like him more and more everytime I read one of these ficlets.

But in actualy reply - I love your icon. KH2 makes me happy.
forgottenlover From: forgottenlover Date: March 11th, 2007 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
::coos at Zack:: makes perfect sense to me~
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I thought it would be nice to see Sephiroth not over-analyzing but just going with the flow. But I guess with Zack, learning to go with the flow is somewhat inevitable. ^_^
fontech From: fontech Date: March 11th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that is so very pretty. Zack is a sneaky bastard, isn't he? (How we love him for it.) Beautifully written as always. I love Zack's nonchalance about the whole issue. Doing what he has to in order to protect his own... he's a good wolf ^^

Speaking of wolf, have you heard the latest Crisis Core info, about Zack's official surname? (I'm far more partial to Faelan, myself. Urk. Nomura, what were you thinking?)
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Zack is a lovable sneaky wolfie. ^_^

Oooo... had a wonderful idea for a mindscape scene of when Sephiroth rescues Zack from Strife -- picture Sephiroth cradling a bloody, shaking, and badly wounded Zack-as-wolf in his arms. And boy, is Seph pissed at Strife. O_o

Speaking of wolf, have you heard the latest Crisis Core info, about Zack's official surname? (I'm far more partial to Faelan, myself. Urk. Nomura, what were you thinking?)

I'm not thrilled about 'Fair', either. ::sulk:: Well, that's another AU aspect of COI, because there's no way I'm allowing 'Zack Fair' into MY fic. >_>
ffmasamune77 From: ffmasamune77 Date: March 11th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Really loved Zack in this little ficlet, really showed he has the title of Fair as his last name haha. You portrayed him perfectly, just plain delicious.

No matter where I go, everytime I see a chocobo Im going to see the image of Zack with the chocobo feather now...oh nu! Anywho I loved how you put the Protection Cetra Gene theory mixed in there, it just added all up to his character. ( throws Chicbi Zack plush )

madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
::grabs chibi-Zack plushie:: Yay!

Yes, COI-Zack is very protective of his Sephiroth. It's a case of someone working very much with his Cetra Genes and not against them. Then again, I've always pictured Zack as being very comfortable within his own skin, which makes him a nice contrast with Sephiroth.
icedark_elf From: icedark_elf Date: March 11th, 2007 03:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Mmmm. I like. And it woke up my sociopathic Zack. >.> *puts him back in the box*

I like how Sephiroth sits there and sees things, and the holes that everyone is so careful to not poke.

And the feather. The feather is love.
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
And it woke up my sociopathic Zack. >.> *puts him back in the box*

But I wanna see your sociopathic Zack! ::whine:: ::paws::

And the feather. The feather is love.

I think it was inspired by reading all ciceqi's Mascotverse fics in one sitting. ^_^;; And yeah, what IS Zack doing with a chocobo feather anyway? Hmmm....
crack_fairy From: crack_fairy Date: March 11th, 2007 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)
niiiiiiiiiiiiiice... XDXD

and playing with feathers... how... kinky.

^________________________________^

*does happy fangirl dance*
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 11th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if Sephiroth is ticklish.... ^_-
soloyuymaxwell From: soloyuymaxwell Date: March 11th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
The greatness of Zack... =_= *Le sigh*

Still no sex... *Pout*

I can't remember if you've stated this already, but how did Zack become Sephiroth's second in the COI verse? It would be interesting to see how Zack managed to move up through the ranks when he was a newbie soldier. ^^ What was first class life like before his arrival?

And it amuses the hell outta me that Zack at times baffles Sephy. XD

The "but I just remembered" excuse... XD Very classic.
__perplexity__ From: __perplexity__ Date: March 11th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry to interrupt, but

"And it amuses the hell outta me that Zack at times baffles Sephy. XD",/i>

That pretty much summed up one of those things I never got 'round to syaing myself ^-^
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 11th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh so amazing! Zack's still his sweet, protective self. It's not out of the question for him to go to these lengths to protect what's important to him. Watching Seph puzzle it out was interesting. Reading this gave me that prickly feeling of realizing there's more behind everything.
ardwynna_m From: ardwynna_m Date: March 11th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
... and now I log in. >_>
kittychan1986 From: kittychan1986 Date: March 12th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
So, I just got home from a long weekend, and behold, there's a present just waiting to make my day when I get home! I like this Fic, I love being able to see Zack in all of his glory before that unfortunate event involving Strife and a Knife. He's been understandably confused since then. But this, this is pure predator. Leader (or fairly close to ) of his pack of wolves. It's very amazing, and the dynamics between Seph and Zack is just wonderful! I love the bit with the feather. Wolfish, Ruthless Zack is just so....amazing....Amazing and utterly deadly if he decides you're a threat. I hope to see more snippets and flashbacks like this!
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 12th, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! For deadly (but snuggly) Zack!

Actually, I have a ficlet idea dealing with Sephiroth and the other SOLDIERs being forced to pass firearms qualification tests -- standard firearms qualifications, the ones non-enhanced humans take. ::eye rolling:: Zack will undoubtedly take it in stride, but Sephiroth....

Zack: "Seph, you do realize that these handguns only have a max rate of fire of about 60 rounds per minute, right?"
Sephiroth: ::teeth gritted:: "I'll try to keep that in mind."

And then younger Cloud somehow crept into the ficlet as well...
baroness_lamia From: baroness_lamia Date: March 12th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)
THANK YOU! It's a real treat to see Zack being portrayed as a cold-blooded killer for once. Very well done! :D
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: March 12th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! He might be a cold-blooded killer, but he's such a lovable one. ^_^
cateared_psycho From: cateared_psycho Date: March 12th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
sweet! this fic was perfectly understandable, and i'm glad to finallly see some real depth to Zack. i love the way you described the SOLDIER's culture. protecting their own...not something i've ever experienced.
keji_eternal From: keji_eternal Date: April 4th, 2007 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
mwahahahaha

sorry for the lateness!

This little snippet here had me grinning from ear to ear. I liked that attitude you gave 1st class SOLDIERS about them not allowing any...erm... bad intention-people get too high within it. And the fact that Zack has something to do with that is just plain bad ass good.

And Zack being protective of Seph just melted me. I'm a puddle of GOO!!!

lol, these snippets just get me more anxious, and more impatient Madam H. When I saw the alert in my inbox from FFnet, I started yelling... er... I thought that it was finally chapter 8... but then my yelling turned to angry shouts... not that I was THAT angry, but just... you know.

But anyway, I love your short snippets.
searisme From: searisme Date: January 3rd, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gorgeous, gorgeous. A very interesting ficlet and I love your Zack and Sephiroth interaction - there can never be enough of that.
madamhydra From: madamhydra Date: January 11th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! ::offers a Zack-cookie::
51 hisses or Hiss in my ear....