I Know What's Beneath the Snow Fields -Chp.20

"Where to now, Sir?" Davoren asked after they had driven out of the Hawking Garden.

"Hmm...lemme check..," President ShinRa replied, pulling out his small social calendar.

The car zoomed across the lonely highway, flying past the dark trees which outlined both sides of the road. In the distance, the brilliant city of Midgar sprouted out of the black ground to illuminate the sky high above. Davoren diverted the car from the endless highway, and headed straight to the dazzling city ahead.

President ShinRa lounged comfortably on the back seat of the car, flicking through his little book. His two Turks occupied the front. Davoren drove the car, while Vincent brooded out the window, his hand under his chin. He gazed absent-mindedly at the trees and occasional lamp-post whiz by his idle eyes.

"Oh joy," the President grumbled sarcastically, "I have yet another dinner party with those boring Morgan's. All they ever do is gab away about their holidays in Costa del Sol...as if I give a damn."

Davoren glanced at the exasperated President through the front mirror, then steered the car onto another black road. He silently headed directly to the Morgan's grand villa at the very end of Midgar. The black hills carelessly rolled past the car as it journeyed down the snake-like road. Vincent noticed a thick blanket of grey clouds crawl up the sky towards the tranquil moon. Rain loomed in the bleak horizon.

Nobody spoke a word during the long trip, though sometimes the President hummed a familiar tune to break the silence. In truth, neither Turk felt very inclined to speak in the presence of President ShinRa, as though he evoked some repulsive feeling in their hearts.

"Say, Vincent," the President addressed, breaking off in the middle of his song, "If I hadn't looked at you in time, would you have shot that child?"

Vincent sat upright on hearing the simple question, his eyes glimpsing at Davoren for some reason. However, the man drove on without even taking his eyes off the road; the question did not seem to interest him at all.

"Yes, Sir," Vincent replied indifferently, "If that were your order, then I would have obeyed it."

"Even though you knew it was a little, innocent child?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Yeah, I thought so too," agreed President ShinRa pensively, "You put that gun against his little head so easily; like you were combing your hair or putting on your coat. And when I saw your face, yup! I just knew you *would* shoot the kid."

Vincent folded his arms very uncomfortably as the President's crude analysis continued. Davoren glanced askance at the morose Turk, but otherwise, kept his focus on the ever-winding road.

"I like your style, Mr. Valentine," the President chuckled, examining his shimmering moonstone ring, "Strict obedience is a quality I definitely admire in a man. Davoren didn't exaggerate when he said you literally took an order without question."

"Thank you, Sir."

"What about you, Davoren?" President ShinRa asked slyly. He shuffled his bulky body to the other end of the car so as to see the man, "What would YOU have done if I gave you that order?"

Davoren silently turned the wheel of the car as though he had not heard the playful question; nor did the illustrious President ShinRa insist on an immediate reply. In fact, he seemed to have already guessed the answer. Vincent gazed outside the window again, relieved to be free at last.

"I would have done exactly what Vincent did, Sir," Davoren answered finally, "I would have yanked up the child, and pressed my gun against his head, just like he did."

"I believe you," the President laughed, studying the man's face from the side, "But would you have shot him? An honest answer now! I know you never lie, Davoren. Would you have actually shot the child?"

He paused a moment before saying, "No, Sir. I would not have shot the child."

"Even if I, your President and superior, ordered you to?"

"Yes, Sir. Even then, I would not have shot the child."

With a good-natured laugh, the President lit a cigar for himself and leaned back in his seat. He bore a striking resemblance to a pig with his ugly, bloated face and twinkling eyes. An insolent, broad grin contorted his lips as he puffed at his cigar. Davoren seemed to exert all his strength not to look at this repulsive man. His cool eyes were rigidly fixed on the road.

"I knew you wouldn't," commented the President after a pause, "Which is exactly why I chose Vincent to manage the child. Sometimes, Davoren, I wonder how you can still be my most reliable Turk when you tell me bluntly that you won't obey my orders."

"You misunderstand me, Sir," Davoren replied dryly but calmly, "I merely said I would not have shot the child."

Vincent eyed Davoren very curiously, then glanced back at the fat President. He recalled Gerald and Cindy recounting the story about their leader insulting the President straight to his face. Davoren certainly sounded quite capable of repeating the incident, judging from his annoyed, restrained voice.

"Oh, tut tut!" laughed the President, amused with the Turk's vexation, "I won't hold your honesty against you, Davoren. Why, you're the only man I'd trust my life with! C'mon, don't be angry."

Davoren's hard eyes glanced at the President through the front mirror, but immediately shot back to the road ahead. He increased the speed of the car slightly.

Probably to get rid of him sooner, Vincent mused, can't say I blame him.

"One would think that because I threatened the child, Hawking crumbled down," President ShinRa stated after a pause, "but that's not true! You see, gentleman, Hawking's OWN folly brought him down."

The two Turks exchanged a significant look, bracing themselves for the upcoming speech. Vincent kept his arms folded across his chest, while Davoren busied himself with the driving.

"Hawking could have got away with destroying my Reactor if not for this one flaw: parental love," ShinRa coughed importantly, "Now, if he were smart, he would've let Vincent kill his son, and then he'd keep his company. What could I have done to him THEN? Nothing!"

The President took a huge whiff at his cigar, excited by the prospect of honouring his two Turks with another speech. Indeed, ShinRa was quite notorious for spouting out speeches on the spur of the moment.

"But since the old geezer loved his son, it was easy to break his proud, scrawny spine. The minute I threatened his son, his parental love got in the way, and now he's lost everything...just for a little brat!"

The joke was too delicious. His portly belly heaved as the President burst into coarse, loud laughter. He tried once or twice to continue, but every time fell back to the same insolent laughter. Vincent rolled his eyes away in disgust. Davoren, however, seemed to bear the man's crudity better.

"You can't blame it on love, Sir," Davoren commented composedly, "After all, parental affection is only part human nature."

The President puffed out an impressive amount of smoke, then gazed thoughtfully outside the foggy window. His pudgy face had changed drastically from silly to serious, but his eyes still glittered with evil playfulness.

"I have this theory, Davoren," he began again as he studied his dirty cigar, "See, life is simply a series of business transactions with variable profits. Even child conception is a business transaction, and the profit is product you get when the child grows up."

Neither Turk cared to comment on the analogy.

"Yes, children are the perfect investment, because you're creating a business partner for yourself. You can mould the child's personality to suit your own liking, and use him in your business. If you waste your time on 'parental affection', then you lose it all...just like Hawking did tonight."

President ShinRa smiled smugly at his misconceived eloquence. Except for the monotonous humming of the zooming car, no one interrupted the silence.

"Heh, but that's not how MY son is gonna be. No sir!" President ShinRa muttered through his big cigar, "We won't waste his time or mine on that sappy, sentimental nonsense of 'parental affection'. He's gonna be my business partner, moulded by my two hands."

"I wasn't aware you were planning on having a son, Sir?" remarked Davoren with a faint smile.

"Huh! Of course I plan on having a son! You think I'd let the City Counsel and blood-thirsty tax-collectors gobble up my money after I die? Heh heh... what a shock they'll get when they see my son just like me..Hell, no! MUCH worse than me!"

The ShinRa President exploded into another bout of laughter, then concluded amusedly, "Yes, much, much worse than me. So much that if some idiot holds a gun against my head and says 'do this and that, or I'll kill your daddy', my son would snap his fingers in the man's face and say 'Good riddance! Kill him, for all I care!'"

Nobody answered him. Davoren turned the car around another obscure bend, and sped up the black hill. Vincent, with both arms still folded, cast his eyes down on his lap. A disgusting, sour feeling tickled his throat.

"THAT is how the perfect father-son relationship should be," the President remarked knowledgeably, "100%, affection-free, business! What do you think, Vincent?"

"I don't know, Sir," Vincent replied dryly, "I have no intentions of having any children, at least not in the near future."

"Feh! If I had a fraction of your looks, buddy, I'd be making children left and right," ShinRa remarked under his breath, then laughed out loud, "Oh well! Live with what you got, I suppose..Ah! are we there already?"

They had, indeed, finally reached the grand villa of the wealthy Morgan's. Built about a century ago, this house spread itself all over the hill top, with three marvelous gables jutting out of the stone facade. White marble steps led up to the main entrance, where Mrs. Morgan was busy greeting the arriving guests.

Davoren halted the car at the foot of the marble staircase. He shifted in his seat to alight the car, but President ShinRa stopped him with a wave of his hand.

"Don't bother escorting me, Davoren," he laughed, reaching for the door handle, "I can walk myself up the stairs."

President ShinRa stumbled out of the car just as Mrs. Morgan flew down the steps to greet her new visitor. They exchanged a friendly greeting, the President complimenting her exquisite pearl necklace. The kind, simple-minded woman offered some "tea and crumpets" for the two Turks, but they politely refused the generous offer; they had to report back to ShinRa headquarters.

"Come back here at two in the morning," the President ordered Davoren before leaving the car, "That's as early as I can make it."

"Yes, Sir. Enjoy the dinner."

The two Turks watched the corpulent President waddle up the marble steps, with Mrs. Morgan chattering by his side. When ShinRa had finally disappeared into the grand villa, Davoren pressed his forehead against the car wheel. His whole countenance betrayed immense fatigue mixed with vexation.

"You live in the ShinRa Apartment Complex, right?" he sighed without looking up.

"Yes, Sir."

"I'll drive you there, then head back to head quarters. No point two of us waiting for him."

Without another word, Davoren back tracked out of the gravel path, and fled through the bronze gates down the hill. Soon, the car was zooming on the main highway again, heading straight for Midgar. It began to rain.

Neither Turk spoke for a long time. Davoren focused his full attention on the black, empty road. Vincent glimpsed at his leader once or twice, but gazed mostly out the misty window. His dull mind drifted from one trifling to another as grey shadows whizzed past the window. He felt very tired.

"Tell me, Vincent," began Davoren, breaking the stuffy silence, "What do you think of the ShinRa President?"

Vincent turned his head to Davoren suspiciously, then mumbled, "I don't know, Sir."

"Oh, c'mon," he laughed weakly, "I can see the answer just looking at your eyes. Are you afraid I'd report you if you tell the truth?"

Davoren smiled amicably at the Turk, trying to encourage him further. However, Vincent avoided his look by staring outside the foggy window again. He kept his keen eyes fixed outside even though the rain had obscured everything to blackness.

"He's the most vulgar, crass, and disgusting ignoramus on earth, isn't he?" Davoren answered himself, "I pity his future son, whoever he'll be."

Although Vincent could not agree more, he kept his face rigidly hidden from his leader; he still refused to comment. Davoren glanced at the frigid Turk very thoughtfully, then his attention returned to the road. Vincent carelessly watched the rain lash against the cold window. His idle finger began to doodle on the foggy glass, drawing squiggles or writing some abstract name. When he realized he had scribbled "JENOVA", he immediately swooped it away.

The silence endured for five heavy minutes.

"Vincent," Davoren began again, "Do you believe in God?"

Vincent turned in amazement to the man, completely surprised by the unexpected question. Though Davoren hadn't lifted his eyes once off the wet road, his voice expressed deep solemnity; he actually expected an answer this time.

Vincent thought a minute, then replied cautiously, "I suppose there *is* some kind of supreme being watching over everything."

"You sound so exact."

Davoren chuckled at the man's "exactness", but his grave expression soon returned.

"Well, they tell us 'God is good'," Davoren resumed coolly, "or 'Yea, God doth saveth the down-trodden and punish the wicked'. Didn't they teach you that when you were a kid?"

The Turk nodded his head slowly. He studied Davoren's face, running his curious eyes over every feature they came across.

"If that's so, Vincent, why do you suppose God lets bastards like ShinRa live? He lets that man trample over everyone else just to fill his pockets with more money."

"I suppose...because there's a Devil too," Vincent replied softly.

"Hah! Good answer!"

Another pause.

"But not a devil with horns and a long, pointy tail," Davoren smiled bitterly, "This devil wears a blue suit and tie. It assumes the shape of normal men, yet threatens, kills, and of course gets away with it, just to make SURE ShinRa's pockets stay full."

Saying that, Davoren turned his face to Vincent for a response. His knit brows and frown intensified the hateful gleam in his honey-coloured eyes. Vincent only looked down again, hesitating to ask any questions. Nevertheless, he was extremely interested in what Davoren had to say.

"And who suffer the most, do you think?" Davoren concluded in a low voice, "Why, people like those men we slaughtered in the Reactor. They suffer the most to satisfy ShinRa's greed."

"Sir," Vincent interrupted all of a sudden. He fixed his quizzical eyes right on his face, "Those men were threatening to kill ShinRa employees. Are you saying we shouldn't have killed them?"

Davoren's eyes narrowed in unmistakable scorn at the simple question. He immediately glanced askance at Vincent, then focused on the road again. Hot rage seemed to boil in his heart.

"Those were also poor, illiterate men from the slums, Mr. Valentine," he replied with great restraint, "Hawking dazzled them with a couple of gil if they would pick up a gun and scare some employees. To be blunt, Hawking used them to fulfill his own means."

His voice suddenly softened, but the hard, bitter tone still remained, "Yet ShinRa ordered us to massacre them as if they were professional, first-class terrorists. And what did we kill them for? To make ShinRa Inc. a monopoly...to make that fat toad of a ShinRa richer.."

Davoren glanced again at Vincent, then concluded sadly, "That's how meaningless human life is to this money-grubbing company. One of the most sacred gifts from God, traded for hard, cold cash."

Vincent looked at this bitter man, then turned away to wonder at the strange paradox: how could Davoren, the LEADER of the Turks, insult ShinRa Inc. at the same time? How could everyone, even President ShinRa himself, value this man who made no secret of his hate for ShinRa Inc.?

Another awkward silence sprung up between the two Turks, neither man caring to speak anymore. The torrential rain continued to pour down as the car raced down the deserted highway. They were already approaching the check-point at the large iron gates of Midgar.

Davoren stopped the car when a heavily-clad soldier signaled for him to halt. He gruffly demanded some ID, but on recognizing Davoren, immediately allowed them to pass in a most respectful manner.

The car whizzed up the road, cutting through the pouring rain like a bullet. Huge, grim buildings flew past the speedy car, accompanied by dazzling neon lights and colourful posters. Unfortunately, the rain fell so persistently, Vincent could only see pink blurs of light flash past his face.

He stole a curious glance at Davoren, as if he could guess an answer from his face. The brilliant neon lights lit up the man's handsome face, streaking it with hues of pink or yellow. His features seemed sharper, yet his eyes stared absent-mindedly through the wet front window. He looked so sad.

"Can I ask you a personal question..Davoren?" Vincent began cautiously, He had never addressed his leader by his first name before.

Davoren looked indifferently at the Turk, muttering, "Go ahead."

"If you hate ShinRa Inc. so much, why did you become a Turk?"

"Money," smiled Davoren mysteriously, "I joined for the money."

Pardon me for saying this, but you don't look or sound the type who'd.."

"Oh, no! The money wasn't for me! I could've been a street-sweeper, for all I cared. No, the money was for my brother."

Vincent started in alarm at the surprising reason. He instantly recalled the long, painful story about Davoren's brother and how he had fought with the President over his search. He fidgeted nervously in his seat, trying to avoid the man's eyes. His cheeks flushed slightly in embarrassment for starting the conversation.

"It's alright," Davoren smiled calmly, "Gerald and Cindy have already told you all about my brother, judging from your reaction. But it's true. The money was to put my brother through college."

Vincent turned his eyes back to Davoren, trying to guess his meaning. Though Vincent did not encourage his leader any further, Davoren decided to continue all the same. His spirits seemed to lighten as he spoke about his missing brother.

"See, we were extremely poor at the time, and I had to take care of him ever since he was ten years old. I think I joined ShinRa Inc. as some clerk or another, which was fine until I found out he wanted to go to college."

Davoren steered the car around a curb, then went on as friendly as before, "Now, the pay wasn't THAT great, so I had to figure out how to help him..'education is everything', as the saying goes. And since I wasn't smart enough to be a scientist, or strong enough to be in SOLDIER, I became a Turk."

He looked proudly at Vincent.

"Mind you, I worked my butt off all the time, but so what? Every gil I made went to my brother until he graduated...full honours too! And by the time he became a Turk, I was already leader of the Turks. Heh heh..I sound more like a father the way I'm going on..."

Vincent beheld this man in strange wonder. Perhaps now he understood better why everyone respected Davoren so much, even the cold-hearted ShinRa President. In truth, Vincent had never seen such a sacrificing nature as Davoren's.

But then he remembered... Davoren's brother was dead.

"I..I'm sorry," Vincent apologized confusedly, "I wouldn't have asked you if I had known your brother was involved..."

"Hey. Don't worry about it."

Neither man spoke another word until they finally reached the large apartment complex. The car slowly rolled across the parking lot, then halted at the main entrance.

"Well, here you go," smiled Davoren amicably.

After mumbling some thanks, Vincent fumbled at the door to step out. But on opening the door, Davoren stopped him by gently gripping his shoulder.

"Tell me honestly," he begged with stern eyes, "Would you have really killed that child?"

Vincent paused before muttering dryly, "Yes, Sir."

"Even if you knew he was innocent, and his only crime was being Hawking's son?"

"Yes, Sir," Vincent insisted, looking very cold, "When I am given an order, I obey it. I do not judge the moral nature of the order. My position only requires that I fulfill the wishes of my superiors without question."

The two stared intently at each other, Vincent feeling more and more uncomfortable with Davoren's scrutinizing eyes. Only the sound of rain lashing against the car top disturbed the stillness. Suddenly, a most fatherly, kind smile stretched across Davoren's face.

"Yes, you're an excellent Turk already, I can see," he chuckled quietly, "I just pity the child you nearly killed. He'll be having nightmares about you for a long time."

Vincent blinked surprisedly at the strange comment, then stepped out of the car. He watched it roll away quietly, until finally turn around an obscure curb, and disappear in the rain.

All of a sudden, he remembered he head to return Lucrecia's papers tomorrow morning.

-End of Chp.20