Oh hey, actual fandom writing? Okay, this is done from an outsider's point of view; a nameless SOLDIER and his opinions on Zack, and the events surrounding Crisis Core. Obviously I don't own the characters and this didn't actually happen. There's a tiny bit of Zack/Cloud if you squint. SOLDIER. The elite. The pride and glory of Shinra. Trained and deadly individuals who could be put into any situation, though usually a violent one, and come out with only a couple of scratches at worst. We were the best. Infused with Mako to enhance us above the common troops, trained and honed into the perfect weapons. Everyone wanted to be a SOLDIER. Some of us made it. Some that didn't resigned themselves to their losses. Some others tried and tried again until it killed them. SOLDIER was everything to them. Who could blame them? We're the best, the adored ones. Of course there was one of us that everyone adored the most, set on a pedestal so high that no one else could dare reach him. Sephiroth. The silver haired, always calm and objective, perfect fighter. The higher-ups had found the perfect person, someone who executed any orders with frightening efficiency. We all wanted to be like Sephiroth. The First Class SOLDIER. I was always surprised that he wasn't given a class of his own. Maybe he didn't need one set for him. Everyone knew it anyway. Maybe that was why he never minded. He was the spoiled warrior that everyone was watching. But that was the thing, everyone was watching Sephiroth. They never looked past him, at the other SOLDIERs. Lazard had seen other potential. Lazard had been the one to notice someone else, someone who might have surpassed Sephiroth given enough time. Zack Fair. I met Zack when he was still only a Second Class SOLDIER. I was a Third Class, but that didn't put him off like it did to a lot of the other SOLDIERs. Zack was always friendly to everyone, from people in the slums to the management of Shinra. Always doing his best and trying his hardest, endless energy and enthusiasm. Zack was what SOLDIER was all about, not Sephiroth. Zack was the one people should have tried to be. Someone who always did what he could, who went above and beyond the call of duty. It was no surprise when he got promoted to First Class after the war with Wutai. I had the same mentor as Zack. Angeal, another First. Angeal was the one who had always set Zack on his path. 'Embrace your dreams'. Zack always did that. He told everyone and anyone to do the same. Most of us just laughed it off as corny bullshit, but not Zack. That was why he was so different, why he excelled. I never told anyone, but Zack was the one I admired the most. What a mistake. He never knew. I don't suppose he would have cared what a Third thought anyway. He'd been assigned to go to Modeoheim, hunting down Angeal and Genesis, with one of the Turks and some trooper called Cloud. I don't know what happened out there, but something changed him. That carefree nature he had, it was still there but somehow... lessened. He was more serious, but more dedicated than ever. And he was always supportive of the troops, but Cloud especially. Something out there had changed him, and made him reconsider his outlook. I never understood that mission. We'd been told weeks before that Angeal and Genesis had been killed in action. Why would he be hunting their corpses? It was a while before I found out. Sometimes, Zack lost that new serious edge to his personality. People had to have been blind to miss him and Cloud together. It was so obvious, but no one batted an eyelid. With two of the great Firsts gone and Sephiroth spending most of his time researching, Zack was suddenly the golden boy. He was the one getting away with anything. As long as he completed his missions, why would anyone care that he was in a very obvious relationship with a cadet? I didn't, but a few people commented. Rumours. Why did that even matter? We had a sudden uprising of Genesis clones. No one bothered to explain what was going on to us. Only to Sephiroth, which meant Zack was in the loop too. We didn't know, we just got told to eliminate them at all the reactors around the world. I was sent to the underwater reactor in Junon. It was just a standard mission. Seek and destroy, terminate the clones and stop whatever was creating them. Standard SOLDIER procedure. It was the same for most of the reactors. Someone sent Sephiroth, Zack, Cloud and another nameless cadet to Nibelheim. That nameless cadet... I wonder if his family ever found out. No one knows what happened. A week after the missions had been handed out, everyone received the same mail. "Zack Fair - SOLDIER 1st Class Killed in action Sephiroth - SOLDIER 1st Class Killed in action" No mention of Cloud or the cadet. That mail... The entire Shinra building came to a standstill. It was like someone had found a giant Stop materia. The two remaining elite SOLDIERs had been killed in action. It felt like someone had ripped out my heart, my brain, and just left me to stand there blankly, staring at my phone. It couldn't have been true. What could possibly have been dangerous and powerful enough to kill the two most trained and efficient SOLDIERs in Shinra history? No one could give any details, and the higher-ups just said it was 'classified information' and to get back to work. Imagine my surprise to find out Shinra had lied, and Zack and Cloud were both still alive. I knew at that point that I couldn't be in SOLDIER any more. I stuck around just long enough to discover the facts. It was five years on, since that mission had been given. Fives years later that Zack and Cloud appeared, and we were given orders to apprehend them. Dead or alive. Tseng of the Turks, he was the one to change that order and ask to be given the orders. The Turks, known for kidnapping and assassination. That wasn't what Tseng wanted. He knew all along what had happened, that they'd been kept in a research lab and been experimented on by the sick professor. Tseng was decent. He'd told the Turks to capture them alive, not wanting to take their freedom away from them. He was going to petition to have them allowed free, I guessed. At least someone still had a heart. Then the resentment of the Shinra army took over. They didn't want the Turks claiming their glory of capturing the escapees. They took matters into their own hands. Shot Zack to death on the cliff overlooking Midgar, his body riddled with bullet wounds. One bullet would have been fine, but no. They made him suffer. They made him hurt, and they left a catatonic Cloud to die on his own. Bastards. Shinra... Shinra has a lot to answer for.