|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2008-02-25 17:41:00
Fic: Steele (part 2 of ?)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII (approx 10 years pre-game).
Title: Steele (Part 2 of ?)
Rating: Pretty much worksafe; some swearing.
Warnings: Crime, corruption, and computerised telephone answering systems
Summary: It's the best office I can afford, and even then, I wind up spending a lot of time out of it. Sometimes makes me wonder why I bother with the rent.
My home, at present, is what was once a suite of rooms in a large mansion back before Shinra started building their Plate over the top of Midgar city. It's in Sector one, the first part of the suburbs to be built over when the Plate construction started. The mansion used to be someone's private inner-city estate, although the name of the former owner is lost to the mists of time and the vagaries of public records. For most of the past ten years, it's been converted into a set of apartments, and for the Under Plate areas, they're comparatively ritzy. I sling my coat onto the couch by the door, and make my way to the kitchen.
The fridge doesn't have much in it at present – I've been a bit short on shopping time. It works that way, I've found. Either I've enough time to do the shopping, but I can't afford to spare the money from the rent, or I have the money, but I can't take enough time away from what I'm working on to buy anything. I check the cupboards, which are equally bare, and settle for two-minute noodles. At least it's hot, and it's food, and it's better than nothing. Must make some time to head to a grocery at some point.
The phone rings just after I've put the water on to boil. Cursing, I pick up the handset. “Steele,” I say.
The voice on the other end is a familiar one. Old Man Trood is one of the more reliable under-plate pawnbrokers, based over in the Wall Market area. “You wanted to know about a box,” he said. “I think I got handed it today.”
“Yeah?” I shift my grip on the handset, ready to scribble down the details. “How much do I owe you for it?”
“Nothin',” he told me. “Kid who handed it over didn't want to leave it. Didn't like what I offered him.”
“Would you know the kid if you saw him again?” I have to ask. If nothing else, there's the possibility of being able to track the little bastard and offer a better price.
“Probably,” Trood tells me. “He said he was gonna take it to the Don when he stomped out. Thought you should know. You know what the Don's like.”
“Yeah, I do,” I said. “Thanks for the info. I owe you one.”
“You owe me a hundred,” he replied. I took the hint – a hundred gil to Trood the next time I was in the area, and he'd keep quiet.
“When do you want it by?” I asked.
“Shall do,” I said. “See you then.”
Don Corneo has a fascination with all things Wutain, and will pay good money for stuff he didn't have, as well as getting particularly rare pieces stolen to order. The Shinra family and their allies are safe enough, but anyone else is fair game. Best advise the client. Then she can make the decision about whether I try and retrieve her box from Corneo. If she can afford my danger money on top of the price of the box, I'll do it for her; if she can't, I'm damned if I'm going to risk my neck. Let her deal with His Horniness in person.
The water's boiling for the noodles. I switch the phone over to the answering machine, and settle down for the night.
Morning arrives far too soon for my liking, even under the Plate. One of the nasty side-effects of doing what I do for a living is the hours are irregular at best, insufficient at worst, and annoying all the time. Stretching and rubbing the grit from my eyes, I wander out to the living room, and switch on the answering machine. No messages, praise be to all the gods.
A shower is enough to wake me up fully, and once I'm dressed in my usual “office” outfit (shirt, trousers, coat hiding the shoulder holster, and another gun hidden at the small of my back) I'm out the door. My office is over in Sector Five, about five blocks out from the Shinra tower. It's the best office I can afford, and even then, I wind up spending a lot of time out of it. Sometimes makes me wonder why I bother with the rent.
The train ride up to the top of the Plate is delayed by the checkpoint searches which have started in the past month. Some new terrorists have appeared or something (my more cynical side says it's a ploy to get the people of Midgar accustomed to another limitation on their movement) so there's checks to make certain everyone travelling above-Plate has the appropriate ID. Lucky me, I've remembered my wallet (the one with the three different identities in it) and my business face is on top of the pile. I wave the card in the direction of the Shinra trooper who's checking things, give him a look at the shine in my eyes, and he finds someone else to worry about. This is nice for me, since I realise as I'm putting the ID away it's about a year out of date. Okay, so I could get out of a Shinra cell easier than most (a quick chat with Veld, a few words with the PR types, and a suggestion of what I might remember about the labs tends to do the trick) but I'd rather not get into the cell in the first place. Something else to add to my list of things to do.
When I finally reach my office, it's to find the window open, and all the cigarettes I usually have stashed in my desk drawers missing. Reno stopped by, it seems, and picked up his payment in tobacco form. I'm not too worried – he hasn't taken more than what he was owed, and he's better able to trade the smokes for services than most. Nothing else is missing, although I'm sure he's rifled through all the papers. Not that it'll do him much good – the files I have stashed here are purely for decoration. The real information stays safely locked inside my skull, where it belongs. I'll thump him upside the head if I notice anything out of order, of course. It's good training.
I close the window and sit down at the desk. There's not much for me to do here today – I have to write up an invoice for retrieving a missing cat (Della Leroy's prize tom Wutain Temple Cat, which had wandered off chasing a female, and narrowly escaped being numbers thirteen, six and twenty-seven on the menu of Charlie's Cheap Chow in Sector two below-Plate) and there's the client for the box who needs to be contacted so she can give me the yea or nay on whether I go and speak to Don Corneo about it. It doesn't take me long to write up the Leroy invoice and set it aside to be delivered – heck, that one was solved mostly by putting the word out on the below-Plate grapevine regarding a decent reward for the safe return of a cat with crossed blue eyes, a kink in the tail, and four black feet. Whether Della Leroy will think getting her beloved Crystal Jade Palace of The Four Winds back was worth seventeen hundred gil is a different question.
Then there's the call to the client whose heirloom went missing. I do a few preliminary calculations of how much she's likely to owe me. There's the hundred gil to Trood, another twenty to Reno, and ten hours of pavement pounding at the standard rate of fifty gil an hour. So she's looking at six hundred and seventy gil even if she says no. If she says yes, my hourly goes up to danger money, which is three hundred gil an hour. I pull over the phone.
“Welcome to Shinra enterprises. Your call is important to us. Please listen carefully to the menu and choose the correct option. For electrical accounts and bills, please press one. For Shinra financial services, please press two. For Shinra property services, please press three. For the Shinra retail network, please press four. For the Shinra travel service, please press five. To speak with a Shinra representative, please hold.”
I loathe these things. One of the perils of the modern business environment, to my mind, is the wretched string of menus one has to go through to be connected to a switchboard. I hold, and listen to the voice of the computer on the other end of the telephone line assuring me my call is important to Shinra, and a representative will be with me shortly. I've sat through this thing before. I know the Shinra definition of “shortly” is something like twenty minutes, minimum, while their systems trace where the call is coming from, and what the ambient noise level is around the caller, and a whole heap of other things, just in case I'm phoning in a bomb threat. I'll admit to being tempted at times, if only because I think it would cut through a lot of the crap and dump me straight onto the other end of a conversation with Veld. Of course, I'd also have a bunch of heavily-armed types showing up at the front door in no time flat, possibly even a SOLDIER in amongst 'em, but you can't have everything.
So I sit there on hold, and try to decide whether dealing with the Shinra corporate telephone system should be an additional surcharge on the client's account. Things are apparently pretty slow today – I wind up with a human voice on the other end of the line after only seven minutes.
“I'm wanting to speak to MaiRee Brown, in Accounting,” I tell the person on the other end of the line. To my surprise, they put me through without question. It's clearly a day of small miracles.
My luck's run out, however, because once I'm put through to MaiRee's line, I get her voicemail. I leave her a message asking her to phone me back on my PHS number, regarding the retrieval, and head out the door again. I still have to pay Trood, and I need some more cigarettes.
All feedback gratefully accepted. What works, what doesn't? Is this believable for you?