Barret - Chapter 4

This content is the fourth chapter of the Case of Barret.


Cid sauntered over as Barret was working up a sweat fixing the holes in the ceiling. Out of embarrassment, Barret chose to ignore him and continued the repairs. Cid sat himself down a short distance away.
"You all calmed down now?"
"'Scuse me."
Cid shook his head to say no worries. "I want your help with somethin'."
Barret stopped working and peered at Cid.
"First, mako. You hit the nail on the head. We'll take just a little from the planet, just what we need. We had the same idea. Truth is, airships are useful. 'Specially when the world's in the middle a' tryin' to pick itself up. If someday they tell me they don't need mine anymore, I guess I can just find me a spot with a nice view to set her down, and turn her into my house."

Cid went on to tell him about the current energy situation. As things stood, mako reactors around the world were at a halt. And that was by no means because the general public felt remorseful for mako usage shortening the planet's life. There was a more practical problem: upkeep was difficult without Shinra, who had run the mako reactors.
But the real reason no one restarted the reactors?
"By now, everybody knows that mako energy sucked out the Lifestream and consumed it," said Cid. "And that day, they all experienced firsthand how terrible the Lifestream could be. They're scared. Scared of pissin' the planet off."
Barret remembered the sight of it vaporizing Meteor closing in on Midgar, just moments before it would destroy the planet. The Lifestream's power was overwhelming, surely far beyond anything man could ever produce.
"Ain't nobody wants to touch mako with a ten-foot pole."
"So you're sayin' there's no way to make mako energy now?" asked Barret.
"Ayup. Prob'ly not. There's still some mako left that got sucked into Midgar's reactors and never got used. Right now, those mako reserves power every mako engine worldwide. Area leaders are managin' it, divvyin' it up to the people they figure need it. Mainly it's to get machinery runnin' that'll help with reconstruction."
"Yeah, I know. I was in Midgar. But c'mon, what's wrong with spinn' just one of them reactors now and then? Forget how scary it is." Forgive me, Biggs, Wedge, Jessie.
"Won't get another drop of mako outta the ground there. The flow of the Lifestream's changed."
"You checked it out?"
"Red told me. If he says so, it must be true enough."

Barret was at a loss for words. Was the planet telling them not to use mako anymore?
"Now, if we were to throw together a mako reactors in some other place, that's a whole 'nother story. But first we gotta find that place, transport all the materials… No tellin' when we'd finish. Then there's the matter of how to transport all those materials in the first place."
"That's no good at all!"
"Ayup, once those mako reserves run out, it's all over. The world'll revert back to the age of coal. We'll just have to poke along in the good ol' steam truck again. Go back to chocobos-are-the-fastest-form-a'-ground-transportation-thank-you-ma'am. Not that that's so bad, really."
"So you wanna live as a quitter? You say we gotta go through life facin' backwards? Yeah, we effed up big time, I know. Maybe it is best we don't go walkin' down the same path. So what? We just gonna tread water? Why can't we search for another way?"

"Which brings us to oil," Cid said with a grin.
"Oil? That useless goop?"
To Barret, who worked in coal mines, the mention of oil was a surprise. All it was ever good for was burning in lamps.
"It's only been useless since mako came along. Truth is, oil was supposed to usher in a new era. We ever had us some respectable technology to produce different fuels from oil. But once mako showed up, the technology was carried over to mako applications. And so oil had up an' vanished from history."
But Cid continued, explaining how he and his team had pulled out old records and located an oil field. Luckily, it wasn't too far from Rocket Town. On site, they'd found facilities to drill for oil and refine it into gasoline—half-collapsed, maybe, but there nonetheless. Cid and his companions had restored the facilities to an operation status. But gasoline didn't yet yield enough power.
They needed a more potent fuel. They had persisted in efforts to that end, and at least prospects for making jet fuel were looking bright. In tandem with that, work was underway to revamp the engines to run on the new fuel. But that work wasn't going quite as well.

"When did you fools ever find the time-"
"After it happened. Right after."
"Well, damn, Cid! That's incredible!"
"Like I said, we had the records. There ain't a speck a' new technology. All we did was bring the old tech back to life."
"Whatever you did, this means the end of coal, don't it?" Barret, having grown up in a coal miners' town, had mixed feelings about that."
"Times change. We just happened to be born on the cusp, that's all."
"Can't say I feel one way or the other about that."
"Then how 'bout you feel lucky? The comin' age is our chance to try all kinda a' things."
"True that."
"The only unlucky part is…"
"What?"
"With so much to try, we're all gonna run outta time. Ain't that a bitch?"

Cid and Barret set out east from Rocket Town. They walked a full day before reaching their destination. Shera came out to greet the two of them.
"Yo!" called Barret, who was happy to see her again after so long. Shera looked like she hadn't changed at all. But Barret noticed the stigma on her hand right away. She must have sensed it, as she made an attempt to hide her hand beneath her coat.
"Well, does it hurt?" Cid asked gruffly. "Don't push yourself."
We're all gonna run out of time, thought Barret.
Cid looked up at the oil derrick. It showed no signs of operation.
"Why the hell isn't this-"

Shera quickly explained the situation.
"We shut it down this morning. We might have gotten more, but output had dropped all the way to ten percent of when we started drilling, so we had to shut down the pump."
Cid slumped his shoulders and muttered, "The first day it came spurtin' out even without the damned pump. We turned jet black from all the oil rainin' down. Laughed our asses off."
Barret let out a great sigh.
"The planet ain't gonna give us nothin' else, huh."
"That's not true," Shera said in a firm voice. "The planet has all kinds of things in store for us. Like coal, oil, mako, you might say. There might even be things we don't know about yet. We'll be okay as long as we don't misuse them. As long as we don't get greedy. If we're resourceful. The planet must be concerned about us. After all, the Lifestream that courses through it was once the lives of people who lived right here where we stand."
Cid and Barret ruminated on those words.

Sherashe'll always be concerned about Cid, whether she lives, or returns to the planet, thought Barret. Same goes for Cid. And the same for me.
"Shera…" was all Cid said before falling silent.
After a short time passed, he opened his mouth again. "Shera. How's the fuel?"
"Fine. It partly depends on your engine efficiency, but you should be able to fly once around the planet. More than enough for a test flight, I'd say, but what do you think?"
"The engine's not ready. Nothin's workin'. The end's nowhere in sight. Listen, Shera…"
"What is it?"
"Cid had fallen silent. Barret chimed in despite himself.
"Cid just wants you to, to help out with the engine development. Kick his ass into shape, ya know? Just 'cause the fuel's all done
there's still heaps of work to do."
"I know." Shera looked at Cid." I can't throw in the towel yet."
Barret needed to say more.
"And after you build the engine, there's still lots for you to do!"
Shera answered only with a smile."

The three of them looked up at the derrick in silence.
"Barret," said Cid. "Know about any oil fields?"
"You just leave it to me!" Barret had no more doubts. Hey, planet. Hey, all you lives that course through it. If you wanna punish me, you go ahead and do it. But I'm gonna fight back with all I got. The only ones who get to punish me are the folk who are still living. I'm gonna live, so the living have a tomorrow.

When Barret returned to his workshop, Old Man Sakaki held out a new prosthesis made just the way he'd ordered it. The hand was made of wood, and had a warm feel to it. It wasn't meant to fit an adaptor, but attached directly to the arm instead. Barret looked at the hand, then at the old man and said, "I still got journeyin' to do. I gotta find some land that yields oil. I may end up goin' places that nobody else would dare enter, dangerous places. There's no tellin' what monsters I'll find. So I still need a weapon, and not just to defend myself. I'm not allowed to stop fightin'. If my fightin' means somebody else doesn't have to, then that's my calling. No, my penance."

After listening to Barret's uncharacteristically coherent words, Old Man Sakaki went into the back, and then returned with some sort of parcel. When he opened it, Barret saw a prosthesis inside with traces of rust upon it. It was an exquisitely made steel hand. Even the fingers looked like they moved.
"With practice, you could even write with it. How well you do depends entirely upon you."
"This…"
"…was to be a payment of sorts for helping my nephew. But since you don't seem to need it, I'll hold on to it."
"I'm sorry. You went through so much trouble to make it."
"No trouble. I made it for you years ago."
"Come pick it up when everything's over," the old man said. "I'll have the rust all polished off."

After leaving the workshop and walking a while, Barret thought, I shoulda written a letter to Marlene. Maybe I oughta call her, too. No. Once it's all over I'll come back here and write it with that hand the old guy made me. And I'll take that letter to Marlene myself. Barret wanted to scream. So, at his heart's behest, he did.
"I'm comin'!"

-The End-


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