You can see for yourself how messed up younger COI-Cloud is, even before the Shinra scientists and Sephiroth get their claws into him. In the full teaser, you can see flashes of Strife-ish behavior already developing.
To set up the excerpt, Sephiroth, Zack, and the Shinra troops are in Nibelheim. Sephiroth is off brooding by himself, while Zack and the troopers are at the Inn.
About thirty minutes later, the off-duty troopers came to attention as Zack walked into the inn's dining room.
"At ease, men. Witney, round up everyone for a briefing."
With all the Shinra guards present, Zack stood up and said, "Okay, this is how it goes. There was a serious equipment malfunction in the mako reactor on Mt. Nibel, which caused the release of all sorts of crap into the local environment. I suspect that's the probable cause for the unusual monsters infesting this area. The General and I have shut down most of the facility, but the reactor itself is still active. However, I don't know how the monsters are going to react to this shutdown. They might not give a damn, or they might seriously object, in which case, we can expect some unwanted visitors. There's no way to tell. That's why I want you guys on your toes from now on. Got it?"
As the men murmured their agreement.
"Um, if you don't mind me asking... where IS the General, major?" asked Witney, a stocky private with a heavy-boned face.
"Because of the hazardous nature of some of these creatures, he's decided to deal with them personally. And while he's busy, we get the job of babysitting the town."
"Sephiroth's off hunting those monsters solo?" Witney said, obviously impressed with the General's bravery.
Zack simply shrugged, then turned to the squad leader, Corporal Pitcairn. "Set up a schedule for guard shifts."
He waited patiently as the corporal had finished assigning watches. As the men prepared to exit the room, Zack rapped the table and said, "One more thing." He paused until he was sure he had their undivided attention.
"Dr. Hojo, the head of Special Scientific Research is due to arrive at any time." Zack saw some of the more experienced troopers blanching at the mention of the scientist's name. He knew that those men would soon enlighten their more ignorant comrades. "I would strongly advise you to be on your best behavior and keep a very low profile while he's around. You do NOT want to attract Hojo's attention. That's all."
The men assigned to guard duty headed out into the rain, while the other troopers went upstairs to get some rest. But as soon as they were gone, he said, "Just a moment, corporal."
Zack said drily, "There seems to be a slight discipline problem in your squad."
The corporal winced visibly, then sighed and rubbed his forehead. "You're talking about Strife, of course."
"In the last 24 hours, I've stopped or broken up three brawls, and all of them involved the other men ganging up on Private Strife. So what's the problem?"
"No excuse, sir, but...."
"Go ahead, corporal."
"There weren't any discipline problems until Strife got assigned to the unit, sir."
"So you're saying it's all his fault?"
Pitcairn frowned, then finally said, "Frankly, sir... yes!"
"So what exactly is Strife's problem?"
"To be blunt about it, he's got a shitty attitude and even worse judgment. It's hard to get along with a guy when you never know which way he's going to jump."
The corporal took a few seconds to gather his thoughts, then said slowly, "Sir, do you know much about chocobos?"
"A fair bit."
"Then you'll understand what I mean. Sometimes you get birds that's been really badly treated... abused, you know? Well, it's like there's something broken in their heads. They become sullen, unpredictable. People call 'em 'fear-biters'."
"Yeah, now you're getting the picture. Fear and anger are the only things that motivates them, and you can never tell how they'll react in any given situation. One time they'll be cowering in terror, and the next time, they'll be crazy vicious. Being nice to them doesn't do any good -- all they do is get aggressive and bossy."
"Using bravado to hide or deny the fear," Zack said thoughtfully.
"I guess. Anyway, once chocobos get that way, they're pretty much useless. You can't ride them because they're too damn untrustworthy. You can't let them go free because they're a danger to everybody else. About the only thing you can do with them is put 'em out of their misery."
He gave Pitcairn a long look and said, "So what you're telling me that Strife's the human equivalent of these fear-biters?"
"Basically." The corporal hesitated, then continued earnestly, "Listen, sir, the kid's totally fucked up. He's got no business being in the military. When you're going into a fight, you've got to be able to rely on the guy standing next to you. You don't have to like him. You can even hate his guts, but you need to know that he'll do his job just like you. You know how it is, sir."
"You asked me why the guys don't like Strife? They don't like him because they can't trust him. He's a coward. Forget just being scared -- only idiots aren't scared -- but Strife, he's fuckin' terrified ALL THE TIME, no matter how much he tries to hide it. So half the time he'll be right in your face over the slightest thing. The other half of the time, he cringes if you give him a half-mean look. The problem is that you never know what he'll do."
"Wonderful. Just wonderful," Zack said with a sigh, raking a hand through his hair.
"Tell me about it, sir. I protested long and hard when they assigned him to my squad. I just knew he was going to be trouble. Among the noncoms, he's got a hell of a reputation. But HQ insisted."
"They wanted someone from Nibelheim on this mission."
"I guess he was the only one available. I requested that his assignment only be made temporary, but that was the best I could do."
Zack wasn't one to buy into every rumor he heard. Unfortunately, Pitcairn's statements only confirmed his own observations.
"All right. But that doesn't help our current situation."
"Just do your best to keep everyone out of trouble, okay? It's bad enough that this kid's life is going down the toilet. I don't want the other men's careers getting screwed up because they got carried away and did something stupid. I'm not a stickler for regulations and I'm willing to overlook a lot of things, but not if one of my men gets seriously hurt. And for the duration of this mission, Cloud Strife is one of my men, just like the rest of your squad. You got me, Corporal Pitcairn?"
"Yes sir. I'll make it perfectly clear to the men."
"Good. We'll figure out what to do with Strife once we get back to Midgar."
"Do you think you could... I mean, the recommendation of a SOLDIER First Class pulls a lot of weight with HQ, and especially someone like you...."
"Don't worry. I'll see that you don't get saddled with him permanently. Getting him out of the military is going to be the best for everyone concerned."
"Thanks, major. I really appreciate that." Relaxing a bit, the corporal said wistfully, "Any chance that we could convince him to go AWOL here, sir? It'll be small loss to us and seeing as this is his hometown...."
"Not a chance. I don't know if you've noticed, but he hates this place."
"That's too damn bad, sir."
As he headed back upstairs, Zack thought about what he had read in Cloud's personnel file. He knew that the kid had applied for the SOLDIER program and been rejected, but to be honest, Cloud never stood a chance of qualifying. The plain truth was that Cloud Strife's psyche was simply too fragile. Physically, the kid might have survived, but mentally? No way. The evaluators had summed it up nicely -- 'lacks necessary mental integrity and emotional resilance to successfully undergo conversion'. The SOLDIER process was extremely hard on people. A guy really needed to have his head screwed on straight or risk almost certain insanity.
And the kid was already at the breaking point.