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Aftermath

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It wasn't hard for Reeve to remember that Meteorfall had only been three years ago. That their mad rush to stop Sephiroth had only been a single year in itself was mind boggling, yes, but he had a very solid grasp on what all had been going on for the past three years - he'd been in the thick of it, even before an 'anonymous' benefactor had helped him fund the World Regenesis Organization. The irony of the fact that his efforts to make the world a better place had once been so thoroughly ignored by the late President Shinra wasn't lost on him, but it was hard to savor with how busy he was.

As fond as he was of AVALANCHE - at least this second incarnation that Barret had started and Cloud had finished - they were like so many civilians who just hadn't comprehended the necessary evil ShinRa Inc. had been. The loss of the reactors was only the tip of the iceberg, immediately cutting power from anything that may have survived in Midgar, and even out to Kalm. That meant no air conditioning and no heating, yes, but it went even further. Hospitals scrambled to get generators working, but many who would have managed to survive Meteor with proper medical equipment died as there just wasn't enough power to go around. Water systems came to a stall. Any stores of perishable foods had to be prepared quickly in ways that many people in the city simply weren't prepared for, and what could have helped feed the survivors in another situation was ruined before most thought to even look.

Yes, Reeve had memories of his own of that time, marshaling what forces he could to try and evacuate the city. And let people say what they would of the Turks, but he thanked anyone who was listening that Veld had brought back his team, because he'd been desperate for people to help take charge that he could trust the competency and efficiency of. Just getting people out of the city was complicated by a lot who stubbornly believed they'd be safe until it was nearly too late, and there were just so many of them. Trains were packed full, highways were clogged, military vehicles were stuffed and it still wasn't enough. Saying the population had been halved during Meteor and the aftermath was extremely conservative.

Sephiroth may have become 'the Nightmare' but Reeve's nightmares were haunted by memories of fire in the sky and panic thick in the air, screaming and sobbing and-

"If you're going to be ill, Commissioner, I'd appreciate a bit of warning."

Reeve glanced up and across the helicopter to where the current director of the remaining Turks sat, looking over some paperwork. It wasn't from him, but he didn't even try to guess what the man might be working on. ShinRa may only be whispered these days, but Rufus was busier than ever. "I'm fine."

Tseng arched a brow, giving him a look of open disbelief and waiting patiently for him to tell something a little closer to the truth.

"Thinking about the mess from Meteor," he said finally.

Tseng didn't put the papers away, but he laid them on the folder and gave him more direct attention. "This is a bit reminiscent, I suppose. As I understand it, Omega did a great deal of damage to the ruins."

"And Midgar was already a mess." Reeve sighed. "Joined now by Kalm and Junon."

"Kalm and Junon have both faced and recovered from disaster before," Tseng said mildly. "And I've been told you've continued to come up with better plans for dealing with Midgar. Do you think the battle with Deepground and Omega would have done enough to scrap those plans?"

"Not all of them, no." Reeve shook his head, mind going over several of his ideas just by habit. "But I'm not so optimistic as to think none of them will need reworking."

"We're quite fortunate you're creative, then."

"Oh is that what they're calling it these days?" Reeve chuckled softly, well aware that not so long ago the words used to describe him were not nearly so kind. Funny how the world almost ending made people appreciate practicality and a mind for civil engineering.

"Your ability to work with Mr. Wallace and Captain Highwind is also admirable." There was a hint of a smile on Tseng's lips, but his words were sincere; Barret and Cid were not the easiest people to work with, and they were a special breed of difficult for Rufus and the Turks.

"They do have very strong personalities," Reeve agreed. "You may find Vincent to be easier to approach than going straight to Cid."

That particular tidbit earned a brief lift of both brows before Tseng's expression smoothed to something more thoughtful. "The insight is appreciated."

"Mm."

Silence reigned for a while, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Then Reno's voice came back to them, relaxed but professional. "ETA about ten minutes, yo. Valentine's coordinates check out for landing."

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised you felt the need to check," Reeve admitted. "Do you have someone on the ground?"

"Reno has an eye for that sort of thing." Tseng gave him a curious look. "Did you have someone waiting?"

"Not planned, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised to find a red-eyed shadow looming somewhere over my shoulder," Reeve said. "No slight to any of you, so much as I think sometimes he questions my survival instincts."

Tseng had a neutral expression down to default, though his eyes held a spark of amusement. "I can't imagine why."

"Mm." Reeve thought back over the years, smiling faintly. "It often seems my greatest strength is being underestimated."

 


 

Reeve hadn't been at 'ground zero' as it were since the battle with Deepground, and without the rush of adrenaline it was an even grimmer sight. It was only now in the calm and still of the aftermath that he could really process it all, the levels of damage done by both sides. Really, it had been unavoidable - he'd had to throw everything they had at them, no time to look for neater alternatives when they were trying to rouse Omega WEAPON and end all life. The damages here were nothing compared to having the whole planet wiped. But now that they'd survived the threat, he had to deal with the mess left behind. He had an entire portfolio of reports and blueprints from Shelke, a few notes in Vincent's flowing script often near the hasty markups and comments Cid had added. It was tremendously helpful, but not enough. "What a mess."

"No arguments here," Reno muttered, toeing at the rubble nearby with a huff. "A lot of this stuff has Scarlet all over it. Big, nasty machines were her MO, y'know?"

"Oh believe me, I know very well." Once upon a time, Reeve might have let himself comment on how much of his time and energy had to go into cleaning up after her messes back in their days at ShinRa, but it really wasn't worth it now. And if he was reading his Turk escorts correctly, they were remembering the same things from the angle of their department anyway. "The only warning we had, if you'd like to call it that, was from her files. It's entirely possible this is her handiwork."

"The robots would be her designs." Tseng looked the area over, keeping close to Reeve's side as the head of the WRO made his way further into the mess. "She was always fond of that sort of thing. The rocket launchers as well, very reminiscent of her previous works."

"Mm. I don't suppose you could suggest anyone who might be able to evaluate some of those for repurposing?" Reeve made a list off to the side of the notepad he'd attached to the front of his portfolio. "We'll salvage as much as we can, of course; the metal in particular will be useful to melt down and rework, but some of the engines would be good to get a look at. I can't imagine they all ran on mako, and more alternatives are always welcome."

"There are some individuals I could make requests from, certainly," Tseng said. "You have the manpower?"

"Some, yes, but I'm aiming to make more jobs. Getting people out where they can see the difference they're making is good for the morale of the workforce, and hopefully the sentiment will spread further into Edge at the least."

That was another thing that people took for granted until it was too late; ShinRa was the largest employer by far on the eastern continent, and Reeve didn't think he was exaggerating to say it was probably on a world scale too. And when ShinRa fell, it took the economy crashing down with it. Now people were scrounging to survive, desperate and more than a little bitter. It was a hard thing to be optimistic for the scared, battered survivors, but helping the people was what Reeve had always wanted to do. He just hadn't expected it to end up on such a big scale.

"The President was interested in hearing what plans you put together later." Tseng glanced towards their former headquarters with an expression Reeve would tentatively call nostalgic, though the small smile faded after a moment. "I can't help but wonder how much was collateral, and how much was in some way deliberate."

"Hm?" Reeve tried to follow his gaze, to see which parts of the damage he was fixed on. In that particular direction… "I think that was mostly from Sephiroth's visit last year."

"Visit." Tseng was unquestionably amused by the wording.

"I've found that word choice goes hand in hand with perception of events," Reeve explained. "I have no intention of giving anyone or anything more power to use against me than they already have. Sephiroth is no different."

Tseng nodded thoughtfully, saying no more on the matter.

Reno ended up interrupting the companionable silence with an apparent find, and Reeve banished his musings for later.

 


 

They spent the better part of the day weaving through the wreckage, making notes that Reeve would transcribe later on different sheets, sending them out to Cid and Vincent, a tentative request to Cloud and a promise of much more thorough discussion over a business dinner with Rufus. Reeve suspected that the business dinners were less about setting a calculated atmosphere and more about Tseng making sure Rufus stopped to rest and eat these days, though he'd never say so. For all the younger man had been a brat, he was shaping up to be a much better man than Reeve had dared to hope.

Sometimes he did let himself wonder what might have happened if Rufus had gotten the presidency under better circumstances, if Shinra Sr. hadn't been murdered and then Sephiroth started on his year long trek that had AVALANCHE chasing after him and the company trying to keep up and stabilize from the sudden shake-up. Having to jump in the perception of the executives from "too-young vice president" to claim absolute presidential authority, managing the significantly smaller forces of Turks, SOLDIER almost completely wiped out, and the army hindered by Heidegger's questionable leadership… honestly, giving credit where it was due, Rufus had done a commendable job only to have WEAPONs and Meteor wipe out the progress he'd carved out for himself.

That the man wasn't overwhelmingly bitter, was in fact willing to help from the shadows, spoke volumes of the changes it had brought to him personally. But that was the way of it now, more than topography had been drastically changed. Entire portions of the Planet were wiped to the point they would need a complete rebuild, the population drastically reduced, and there was only a vague semblance of society these days.

Reeve thought it could be done. Not that there was much choice, things needed to be changed and drawn together before they lost the little they had, but still… still, there was hope. Barret had struck oil last year, and while it wasn't a long-term solution, it would help in the meantime. Reeve had managed to wrangle Cloud into discussions, largely mechanics and recycling, as well as thoughts of how to thin monster populations and arrange for goods to be transported in bulk. Cid was extremely helpful once you roused the inventive and honestly brilliant mind that he hid under a very rough and often crude exterior; it was terribly easy to forget the man was a literal rocket scientist, and he didn't help by focusing far more on how he just enjoyed flying. But Reeve was a detail man, and he made a point to remember.

Vincent was helpful as well, when he let himself be tracked down. The man was an information hound, gathering everything he could find to catch up on the time he'd missed. 'Formerly of the Turks' he might claim, but apparently some habits never left. He helped make a tenuous connection to Veld as well; the pair's relationship beyond Reeve's full understanding, but it was enough to know the former Director was willing to give input if not actively help very often.

Shaking his head, Reeve finished up his last set of notes for the night, getting up and chuckling at the loud sigh and clearly heard 'finally!' from Cait Sith as the animatronic cat hopped down from whatever perch he'd settled in and tried to shoo him to bed. "You need your rest, Reeve."

"I know," he said, making his way down the hall and working off his suit. It had been a busy but productive day, and he was pleased with the outcome. "More to do tomorrow, best not to waste what hours I can spend for sleep."

"Good man. I didn' want t' have t' pull any dirty tricks."

"I'd really rather you not, myself." Having given himself permission to wind down, Reeve found himself yawning even though his mind was still buzzing with the long list of things he'd need to order and arrange, matching up the level of work that needed done with how many jobs it could make, and the ripple effect going through to bolster the economy. It would be slow going, but the big picture was there. Lots of jagged bits needed gathered and fit together with care, but Reeve was an engineer. Making things work was what he did. This time, it just happened to be the world.