Shinra Inc. And Dreams
by: Jason Tandro
Another evening passed in blissful boredom for Rufus. The calm sound of other people doing work always lulled him right to sleep. The florescent lighting overhead made his small office seem even more cozy and this suited him just fine. He always loved the smallest possible spaces he could cram himself into – it was just a sort of character quirk of his that he never really understood. On the one hand, he loved opulent and magnificent displays of power and wealth. But when it was just him, by himself, with nobody else to show off to, he wanted the bare minimum of waste. Certainly not to the level of asceticism, he was closer to the gluttonous Palmer than the devout monk. But if his room was any indication, he was not one for anything more than the space he needed to exist in.
It was with these wandering thoughts that he turned to Hojo to invent for him the ultimate solution to all of his problems. A coffin, at least in shape, but with a feeding tube, digital display, air holes and a complete audio/ visual system to keep him entertained forever more. And as the coffin was lowered into the earth he realized that he wasn't really dying, but living forever in peace and harmony away from everybody else. Sustained by science, amused by his own selection of tastes, and forever free from all societal bonds. He was dead, but alive. Schrodinger's Rufus.
And then he woke up. His head slipped out of his hand and he smacked his nose on the desk, pushing all of his snot to an unidentifiable bit of his anatomy between his forehead and his brain, and sending ripples of pain down his upper body.
"Ow, son of a bitch," Rufus cursed, rubbing his nose.
"You fell asleep again?" Asked Scarlet as she entered his office with the latest financial reports from the App Development department.
"Yeah," Rufus admitted, fearlessly. It's not like he'd never done that before. In fact, even without his bedroom, he could say he'd honestly spent more time in this tower asleep than awake. "Had a wonderful dream though."
"Oh yeah?" Scarlet asked. "What was it this time? Pretty girl or insane money-wasting invention?"
"I dreamed that I was dead," Rufus said.
Scarlet found herself between two points within a conversation that did not bridge well. Somehow the chasm between jovial small talk to uncomfortable detailed diatribe about depression seemed especially vast today. Fortunately, she didn't have to cross that today.
"I mean, not like 'dead' dead, but like I was in a bubble you know. Like I was away from everybody but was still alive," Rufus continued to babble as memories of the dreams faded away into the ether like sand through a sieve.
"Oh... you had one of those like 'untouchable bliss' dreams. Like you were in heaven or something," Scarlet suggested.
"Kind of. Like small heaven. Ah screw it, it's gone. Dreams are weird like that, you know," Rufus grunted. "When you're having them they are amazing, but then you can only remember the tiniest bit of it – if that – when you wake up."
"I know what you mean," Scarlet nodded. "When I dream of a romantic getaway I'd love to relive it. Me, some handsome man, 30 tons of steel... "
"You know, you'd think we'd have invented a way to record our dreams by now," Rufus thought,. "I mean we've invented just about everything else that a company can invent. How hard would it be for Hojo to make some sort of dream recording machine?"
"Well, Hojo specializes more in nightmares than dreams..."
"No, I insist. I am going to find that crazy old loon and tell him to make me a dream-reading apparatus!" Rufus said. "And maybe some sort of... I don't know, like a coffin or something that makes me live forever but in a coffin... with like a TV in it or something."
=SI&= * * * = SI&=
"A dream reading machine?" Hojo asked with the same sort of barely masked skepticism with which a scientist addresses a person who asks when the Law of Gravity was ratified.
"We think you'd be the one to ask. Being a scientist and all," Rufus explained.
"Rufus," Hojo rubbed his eyes dramatically. "Dreams are subconscious stirrings of the mind while you are asleep. They are not conscious thought and cannot be interpreted by anybody but the dreamer. You can tell somebody about a dream you had but that is your conscious recollection of a subconscious event and without the context of your own mind taking the raw impulses from a dream would result in utter gibberish."
"Huh?" Rufus asked, tilting his head to the side like a dog, further emphasizing his own ignorance.
"Okay, let me try to explain this to you a different way. There was a man who used to have constant nightmares who worked for me, Dr. Gage," Hojo explained.
"Oh have I met him before?" Rufus asked.
"Probably not, he's dead now," Hojo replied dismissively. "Anyway, he wanted to see if there was a way we could control the dreams, stop them from happening. Dr. Gage was willing to sacrifice a piece of his own precious brain to make it happen. And so he had a lobotomy on the -" Hojo made a split second decision to further dumb this down. "- the, uh... fear center of the brain. I mean it also controls a number of other processes in tandem with... well anyways we removed this portion of his brain surgically and you know what happened?"
"You just told me, he died," Rufus replied.
"No, no, he died later from a terrible staying alive accident. After the surgery, he still had the exact same dreams, but his perception of the dream was different. He went from having a nightmare about being attacked by wild animals to the exact same scenario only he no longer found it threatening. The animals were cuddling him and he found them adorable."
"So what you're saying is if I cut my brain up I can become fearless," Rufus asked.
"One bullet hole in the right place and you won't fear anything anymore," Hojo grumbled. "No, what I'm saying is our minds process this information in ways that we can't fully understand."
"But if you recorded the dreams and played them back maybe I would understand them," Rufus stupidly suggested.
Hojo tossed his glasses aside on the table and buried his head in his hands. "Alright. Listen. I will build you this dream-reading apparatus. I will have it track the raw impulses of your mind and record them digitally. This information will be random garbled nonsensical data which even when fed through the most advanced imaging devices will come out to be at best random disconnected images with no sound or context. We will then gather every test subject you like and try it on a variety of subjects to offer a nice wide sample base. This will continue to not work for the reasons I have explained. This will also cost an exorbitant amount of money to do. Are you certain you want me to do this?"
Rufus stared blankly for a few moments before chancing a reply. "So... you're saying you can do it?"
=SI&= * * * = SI&=
A few days passed before Rufus received a memo from Hojo stating that the device was ready. At least he was pretty sure it was what the memo said, the handwriting was illegible and the parts that could be made out seemed to include a larger than average amount of profanity. But nonetheless, Rufus gathered up his comrades and together they made their way down to Hojo's Lab. Reeve was, naturally, in tow to oversee this latest catastrophe as was Scarlet, Heidegger, Palmer and Tseng.
"This is nice. The classic crew," Rufus said, attempting to reinforce a sense of camaraderie that was about 50% imagined.
The apparatus was spectacular to look at, a series of beds with chrome helmets at the end, studded with all manner of ominous looking electrodes. There was a very "untested" vibe to the rest of the equipment, and the copious amounts of bare metal and jutting screws didn't help.
"Oh, so this is how I die," Tseng noted quietly to himself.
"Does this thing actually work?" Rufus asked Hojo, who was giggling between prolonged hiccuping fits.
"Oh yeah," Hojo chuckled. "You know I didn't think it was possible, but it's amazing what a man can do with a gallon of absinthe in him."
"A gallon? How are you not dead?" Scarlet asked.
"Wasn't me. Rest in peace random lab assistant," Hojo made a wild gesticulation that may have vaguely resembled a salute to somebody who had no idea what a salute was.
"So... what exactly do we do?" Palmer asked.
"You all just lay down in the beds and strap on the helmets," Hojo explained. "The electrical bits and bobs will do all the rest. You just enjoy a good night's sleep."
"What if we're not tired, mostly because we are scared of dying?" Rufus asked, before being injected by something and passing out.
=SI&= * * * = SI&=
"Well Rufus, you know what?" Reeve said, stepping down from the mighty golden throne on the 70th floor. "I quit. You can have your job back because it's rightfully yours anyways. Also all that stuff about the budget was just made up and we totally can afford to rebuild your big floating mansion and that doom fortress you want."
Rufus kicked his feet back up on his desk. His white dress suit was now studded with diamonds and he wore sunglasses made out of sterling silver, studded with rubies.
"Yeah, I thought so. Now order me some hookers and tell them to meet me on the helipad, cause I want to fly to my doom fortress and get it on," Rufus said. "And say can we add a Corneo style sex dungeon to the place. I feel like if you're gonna bang hookers in a doom fortress it may as well be kinky shit."
"You got it Mako Daddy," Reeve said, suddenly looking super cool himself in a blazer and slicked back hair.
"Awwww yeaaaaaaah," Rufus said, suddenly in the Corneo-style sex dungeon with three smoking hot chocobos.
"Wait a second what's going on?" Rufus asked.
One of the chocobos had jet-black plumage and blood red eyes. It turned to Rufus with a sinister leer.
"Wait a minute... I know you..." Rufus whimpered.
Rufus let out a blood-curdling scream as the impalement commenced.
=SI&= * * * = SI&=
"What?!" Rufus shrieked, as he rolled out of the bed, his helmet falling off and his knees hitting the sterile tile floor with a sickening CRACK! "Ow, god, why? Why? Pain..."
"You had a bad one too, huh?" Scarlet groaned. "I dreamed that I had finally finished the blueprints for the perfect weapon – the missing link between human weapon's technology and the power of the gods themselves. And then Palmer used it as toilet paper."
"Sounds better than mine," Reeve grunted. "I dreamed that we had brought the company out of its slump and had become more profitable than ever. I was actually able to go into retirement and pass the company on to a nice newcomer. And then on my last day I fell out of a helicopter to my death."
"I had a dream that involved the military having a massively inflated budget that allowed to create my own standing death army and take over Midgar. But all those soldiers were just clones of Reno and the only thing that happened was a massive increase in work-related deaths. From me," Heidegger explained.
"Mine was kind of the same as yours but all the Reno clones ended up breeding to the point where I was surrounded by him all the time and eventually turned into one," Tseng explained.
The group turned to Palmer.
"It... involved aliens. And that's as detailed as I'd like to be," Palmer replied sheepishly.
"Wait, so we all had nightmares? Our dreams started out great but then ended horribly. What are the odds of that? Hojo was it because of the stress? Can we playback our dreams to try and figure it out?" Rufus asked.
"Oh no. This machine doesn't record anything – I told you it's impossible," Hojo said. "This is a nightmare inducing apparatus. Maybe next time you won't make me spend my weekend designing something stupid you thought up."
"You invented something to torture people just because you were mad at Rufus?" Scarlet asked. She seemed angry at first, but the clarity overtook her. "Actually, that makes total sense. I'm not sure why we didn't see it coming."
"Ugh, I'm going back to bed," Rufus sighed, sitting back down on the bed but leaving the helmet off. "Hojo, don't invent anymore killer chocobos or nightmare machines. And nobody clone Reno either. One is enough."