On the Way to a Smile – Episode:Barret

It had been several months since that day—the chosen day. After helping Tifa and Cloud build their home, Barret entrusted his best friend Dyne’s orphaned daughter Marlene to the two of them and embarked on a journey It was a journey to settle the sins of his past. Before departing, he offered several words to Tifa, who shouldered the same guilt. Don’t just take. Prove you know how to give. He thought doing that would lead her, at the very least, to redemption. But his own words brought him no solace, and Barret remained unsure of what he was supposed to do. Being with Marlene gave him peace of mind; he felt guilty for putting off action just one more day. He knew he had to leave, even if he had no purpose. Put some space between him and his heart’s crutch, bear himself to the wilds. This was a “quick‐fix” departure.

For half a year he roamed the world. Other than the geostigma problem, life outside of Midgar had turned to some semblance of normal. The only difference was that hardly anyone used mako—not a single reactor was operating. At one time, this would have been considered a victory for Barret and the anti‐Shinra movement, but the feeling of being lost overcame any sense of satisfaction. There was no place for a man with a gun attached to his right arm except amidst battle and chaos. Take those away, and where do I get to pay for my sins? He felt panicked, even.

Sometimes he wandered the forests looking for a fight, taking down any monsters that attacked, but all the feverish battles would bring was self‐loathing. All I’m killing is stress. And every time, Barret would let out a roar.


It happened when he was walking among the crowds in Junon. Something had bumped into his weapon arm, and when he looked down, a young child was crying, blood running from his forehead. When Barret hastened to tend the wound, a woman who was surely the boy’s mother came running and said:

“Please! Please forgive my boy. I beg of you, I’ll do anything!”

The mother’s eyes were trained on the machine gun installed on Barret’s right arm. In peacetime, I’m the same as a monster, he thought. Times were changing. He had to think of a new way to atone that benefited the new age. He couldn’t exactly grasp what that was, but he knew he was supposed to change first.

Barret went to visit Old Man Sakaki, an artisan who once crafted prosthetic arms for him. The first model was a simple design, fashioned with a hook at the end. Barret was dissatisfied. He had wanted to do more. Like dig in the dirt—the old man had made him a shovel arm—or drive wooden posts— a custom‐built hammer arm did nicely. But Barret wasn’t satisfied by any of these. One day, the old man had told a visibly displeased Barret, “Your head’s filled with revenge against Shinra. You’ll never be satisfied by anything you stick on that arm of yours. Just take this and don’t come back again.”

What the old man had passed on to him was an adaptor that let him attach implements to his arm. By using it, Barret could attach various prostheses—or weapons—to his right arm.

“What you attach is entirely up to you. I suggest you give it some thought.”

Despite the old man’s warnings, Barret didn’t do much thinking at all. The days that ensued were filled with him trying out any weapon he could get his hands on and boosting his firepower. For the next several years, all Barret attached to his arm adaptor were weapons.

When Barret returned to the workshop, he told the old man to make him a new arm—one with a softer texture, with a hand at one end. One that nobody would fear, one that would let him melt into ordinary life. Old Man Sakaki only gave a snort and stared at Barret.

“I’m not just about fightin’. I don’t want people ‘fraid of me no more.”

“So? Who are you trying to be?”

“Like I said…” Barret started to respond, and searched within himself only to find he had no answer. What the hell am I gonna do melting into a world where people are learning how to get all smiley again?

“Shit! Th’ hell should I know.”

“I’ll need a week. All right?”

“Fine. While you’re doin’ that, I—”

“If you’ve got no other plans,” the old man interrupted, “why don’t you help my nephew out with his work? And in return…hmm.”

“Forget it. I don’t need no reward.”

“Well, I’ll think of something.”

The next day, Barret rode along in the truck. Old Man Sakaki’s nephew was driving, and Barret recognized the machine as the same type that took him all over the place as a kid. Its engine ran on steam from burning coal and heating up water in the boiler.

It took four men working together to run it: one driver at the handle, one engineer to keep tabs on engine output, and two boilermen to pump coal into the chamber. At the rear of the truck’s massive body, a bed was attached that could carry about ten people. The coal occupied about five men’s worth of space, and Barret commanded about two men’s worth of the space that was left.

He was sprawled out face up, gazing at the sky. Man, this is slow going, he thought. It was nobody’s fault. Large steam‐powered trucks had always plodded along like this. The men were dripping sweat and working as hard as they could. Everything was running at full power. A middle‐aged boilerman came out onto the bed for a break.

“Sorry to barge in while your pissed, but I gotta take a seat.”

“I ain’t pissed, so don’t be sorry.”

“Yer only pissed enough that the anger’s jumpin’ off your skin.”

Barret sat up and glared at the man. “Th’ f—k’s your problem?”

“There you go—I’m right, see?”

The two fell silent for a while. Eventually the boilerman opened his mouth again.

“You plannin’ to be our bodyguard forever?”

“I’m just doin’ the old man a favor. I dunno what comes after that.”

“You’re not cut out for it?”

“Bein’ a bodyguard? Ain’t nobody more cut out for that than me.”

“Dunno about that.” The boilerman fell silent. Barret waited for him to continue. What do I look like to this fool?

“Hey, say what you’re gonna say, man.” Maybe the guy can gimme a clue about what to do with my life. “What type do I look like to you?”

“The type that, instead of just takin’ out the monsters that come along, goes out lookin’ for monster dens to smash.”

Whaddaya know. Maybe I do.

“Even if you don’t know where those dens are,” said the boilerman with a smile.

“You make me sound like an idiot.”

“It’s not easy, what you do. Maybe you oughta be proud, eh?”

Barret looked the other man in the eye and laughed, heh heh heh. The boilerman returned a puzzled look.

“Can I hit you up for some advice?”

“Depends on the advice.”

“I want to make up for my sins. That’s why I’m on the road. But no matter how much time goes on, I can’t figure out the way to do it. I’m prob’ly just the man you say. Whaddaya think a guy like that’s gotta do to atone?”

“I’d say it depends on the sins.”

“Countless people died…because of me.”

Barret recalled the time he blew up Mako Reactor One with his comrades in Avalanche. Damage far beyond what they’d expected. The city in panic. How his friends kept dying. Citizens he never knew.

The boilerman saw Barret had fallen silent and said, “You just gotta stand tall and live, that’s all. Just keep on tryin’ whatever you think it takes to make amends.”

“I was afraid you’d say that.”

“So what if you don’t know where the monster dens are. You get out there and smash ’em. Maybe one day you’ll get rid of the monsters for—Hey, over there!”

The boilerman pointed behind the truck. A small but threatening monster was giving chase. Barret pointed the end of his right arm at the monster and fired without bothering to get a bead. The creature’s body shattered to the ratta‐tatta of rapid‐fire bullets.

“Sucks to be a monster today,” commented Barret.

When Barret turned to tell the boilerman not to worry, he noticed that the boilerman’s gaze was fixed on his right arm. It was the same look as the woman from Junon. Maybe I’m the monster.

“You know, man, the monsters’ den might be somewhere inside me.”

The boilerman wasn’t kind enough to answer.

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