By Janet Monstwillo
There's a fine line between desperation and determination. I mean, my ass was on the line back in the day...when I was a puny little nine-to-fiver, putting in my 40 hour weeks and bringing home my measly little paycheck.
My ass was on the line, but I was happy. I don't know how I could even have been happy back then, to tell you the truth. Once I'd been with Shinra Inc for three months without getting a big promotion, Lavana dropped me like a used tissue. She never was the patient type, and I suppose she thought I wouldn't ever be an executive.
Reno and I, well, we had our bits of fun, hanging out in the tavern weekends, any weeknights we could spare. Those days, life was easy, it was all about how many times you could buy a round, and how long you'd last next time a poker game started.
Then things changed. Everything changed.
Reno got hauled up into the Turks somehow. To tell you the truth, I think the Shinra got wind of his dealing (I would bet all my money on who leaked it to them), and decided that his skill at being secretive would be of great aid to the Turks. Either way, it meant he was gone in the dead of the night, and I wasn't going to see him again. For the longest time, I thought he'd gotten locked up, or worse, shot in the streets.
I guess it was at that point tired, alone, and with no drug-induced escape in sight, that I began to turn to...what people will forever think of as my weird hobby. It's strange, Cait Sith has been put away, gathering dust for nearly 20 years, but not a day goes by without someone inserting a little jab about him.
I had been in electrical engineering and urban development...they may not seem related, but with Shinra being a power company and all, I thought those bases would be the best ones to touch. I was right...but the electrical engineering helped me in my new hobby.
The money I saved, once I could no longer go out nights with Reno and the guys, went towards my project. Supplies. Motherboard, RAM, harddrive, speakers, the works...attached to a metal frame that was then surrounded in padding and fur. I was very interested in developing an artificial intelligence for my little cat, and it worked, to some degree...he had to be monitored for occasional errors in his software, but aside from that...I had built the first intelligent robot that the world had ever seen.
When the project took over my life, it took over my life...I don't know when I started bringing it in to the office with me, but once I did, my lunch hours never seemed too long again. Instead of sitting alone in the corner of the cafeteria, I bagged it and fiddled with Cait in between bites of whatever prepackaged shit I'd packed for the day.
Maybe two years before Meteor...a Gelnika crashed in mountains north of Midgar. A storm had taken it down, and with it, two of Shinra's high executive offices. The board scrambled about, trying to figure out a way to fill them.
Rufus was a couple years younger than I, but already vice-president at the time. It was he and Tseng who happened to be walking down past my cubicle during one of my lunch hours.
"What about this guy, Monroe?" Rufus gestured to the cubicle of my neighbor.
"How long has he been here?"
Long hair swishing, the Turk commander shook his head. "No. He can't be ambitious enough for the board if he's only made it here after ten years in the company."
Suddenly, a voice chirped into their conversation. "Ten years in a cubicle? Y'all are lucky it hadn't killed him."
In horror, I realized that I hadn't flipped Cait off before the pair reached his hearing range.
A stoic head popped around my doorway. Dark eyes studied me harshly, with a spark of remorse behind them. "Is this your idea of a joke?"
Rufus joined him in the scrutinizing stare, and I fumbled for the right words. "Robots don't really have the same sense of humor we do, I don't thin"
"Robot?" Rufus looked at me with disgust.
I willed my hand to stop shaking, and pointed to the little black cat standing on my desk.
As soon as the two men were looking at him, Cait Sith began to hop up and down. "Yay, new people! No offense to y'all, Reeve, but you are soooo boring to listen to day in and day out and I'd like some fresh blood."
Shocked eyes looked back to me. "Did you make this...thing?" Tseng inquired.
Before I could answer, my creation did so for me. "Of course he did, but I'm the one that can tell fortunes."
"What is its purpose?" he continued.
"I'm a Toysaurus Rex!" Cait yelled. "Grr," he growled, making an attack pose that it obviously thought ferocious.
"I'm still working on personality bugs. The AI can also be shut down, and he can be controlled like a puppet." I spoke quickly, attempting to redeem any respect that these men might had once had for me.
The little cat became engraged, lifting off a little crown I'd placed on his head, and charged towards me. "I ain't no puppet--" Then suddenly, his head drooped, and his body froze into position.
I breathed with relief, having finally found the soundness of mind to hit the off switch. "I apologize..."
Tseng cut me off with a gesture. "You created the cat from scratch?"
I nodded slowly.
"In how long?"
"I've been working on him for about three, four months now, I believe, sir." I could have smacked myself for forgetting protocol for such a long length of time.
The Turk nodded to Rufus, who handed me a sheet of paper. "Fill out this form," he ordered, "and report to the executive board room at the date and time specified in the header. You have been chosen as a candidate for the Head of Urban Development, to replace Mr. Hashimi." The redhead quickly exited, but Tseng remained.
"Mr. Jordan," he said, reading the nameplate on the wall outside my cubicle. His face became less stern, without daring to smile. "Our newest recruit spoke of a friend with the same name. Called him a genius. It's hard to take stock in the words of a street urchin, but... I know now, that indeed, Mr. Reno is not a liar."
I started. News of Reno! My old pal wasn't dead after all, but actually a rank much higher above me in the company. Unless... I stared at the form with anticipation. After four years with this damn corporation, maybe I was finally--finally--getting somewhere.
Tseng Amine walked away then, that day, leaving me to deal with my hopes and dreams. He had hand-delivered me the key to my future, to the best of times and the worst of times.
I wish I could have thanked him for all the gifts he placed in my hands, in the end.