Once again, the Holdsworth control center was a bustle with activity, as were the decks. Hank walked around, ensuring everything was in its proper place. He found Lena standing behind the ship's helm as they made their final approaches to the port of Lisbon, Portugal. The rest of the control room crew were doing their respective tasks. Hank walked up to João Santos, the Brazilian communications officer, and said, “Hey, let me take this one.”
“Sim, senhor,” Santos replied, meaning 'yes, sir' in Portuguese.
“Stick around in case I need help with the language.”
“Okay,” Santos nodded as he stepped away from the radio.
Hank picked up the receiver and spoke into it, “Port of Lisbon, this is Captain William Mitchell of the S.S Holdsworth, requesting a dock and a berth.”
“Capitão Mitchell!” A male voice replied. “Bem-vindo ao Lisboa! Tudo bem?”
“He's welcoming you to Lisbon and ask-”
“I know, I got it,” Hank said politely. He transmitted, “Doin' okay, Silvio. You got us a dock?”
“Sim, sim,” Silvio replied. “Dock numero quatro.”
“Number four,” Santos said.
“Thanks, João,” Hank sighed. “We're starting our approach now.” To Lena, he asked, “You got that, darlin'?”
“Dock four,” Lena repeated with a cool smile. “Coming in now.”
“Good work, everyone,” Hank said aloud. “We shouldn't be in more than a week, so everyone gets five days shore leave; use them at your discretion.”
All Dr. Shigeru Fujikawa had ever wanted was a simple, modest, and mostly normal life. It all started when he was a child and his parents pushed him as hard as possible. He got the best of grades and was eventually accepted into Japan's most prestigious university. There, he acquired a degree in electrical engineering and another in communication technology. Eventually, he earned a doctorate in the former and a PhD in the latter. Interestingly, Fujikawa was never rated as a genius, merely someone above average. The difference was that he applied himself very heavily.
Fujikawa was also a troubled man. He always had many phobias, mostly ridiculous ones. One of those, a very fortunate phobia, was a fear of tap water. Since Serum-349 was mostly transmitted via the water supply, Fujikawa was not exposed. He drank only bottled water, which was completely unaffected. With that, Fujikawa became easily one of the smartest men in the world.
For eighteen years, he survived alone in Hokkaido. And then a miracle happened. The S.S. Holdsworth showed up and gave him the inoculation. When they figured out who Fujikawa was, the crew could not leave him behind. He was far too valuable. For two years, he served as a crewmember, but finally realized that he could no longer handle the active shipborne life. Fujikawa was getting old. He chose to retire to one of the remaining cities, Lisbon. While there, he realized that the world's communication systems were degrading and would soon be inoperative. Soon, he came up with a plan to create a modular communications system that would unite the world's standing major cities and the known villages. This system was eventually called the Fujikawa Network.
Fujikawa approached Captain Mitchell and told him his plan. With the world already inoculated, this was the logical step forward in rebuilding. The Holdsworth and her crew were instantly onboard with the plan. For the next several years, they spent time gathering the materials to lay the cables. All of the ground cables were completed, leaving one remaining step: building a new trans-Atlantic cable. The cable was mostly completed and only some material-gathering remained.
Fujikawa stood at the end of dock four, watching as the mighty Holdsworth approached. On that ship was the last of the material needed to finish what was being called the Fujikawa-Mitchell Line. Naturally, the good scientist was quite excited about his work being finished. It would take them a few days to have the final five-hundred or so miles of cable finally finished. They had hundreds of men working tirelessly to get it finished. Another group would be working on the Holdsworth itself, adding parts and components to make the ship capable of laying seaborne cable. Thanks to hard work and years of planning, they hoped to have this all finished in just a week's time.
Dr. Fujikawa sat down on a bench as the docking crews worked furiously to ensure all things were in order. They had to make sure that the moors were working properly, that the cargo cranes were functional, and that the loading ramps were in their proper places. Fujikawa would lend a hand, but he was in no condition to help. He did not know how and his aging body could not take it. So, the old scientist resigned himself to sitting it out.
It was not long before a docking ramp was connected to the hull of the Holdsworth. Dr. Fujikawa stood and approached the platform and soon, he saw Captain Mitchell and his family coming down. The old scientist gave them an enthusiastic wave.
“Hey, doc!” Hank called as he waved back. The three other Mitchell family members all made similar greetings. Hank arrived at Dr. Fujikawa's side with Lena. Emma and Mitchell waved and then went off to the city. “How you been, doc?”
“Weary, but anxious, Captain Mitchell,” Fujikawa replied as they started to walk down the dock. “How was Ghana?”
“Just the same as last time. We had two injuries, but nothing too serious.”
“Your trips to Ghana are a thing of the past now,” Fujikawa said. “The only thing left before you is the future!”
“If all goes well, we'll have the Fujikawa-Mitchell Line completed in just a month,” said Hank. “That's pretty exciting stuff.”
“Almost too much for an old man like me,” Fujikawa gave off a grandfatherly smile. “I am very glad to see this almost over.”
“You must be proud of your work,” Lena told him.
“I am much too old for pride, Lena,” his smile kept up. “When you get to be as old as I am, you stop thinking about what you can to do to gain and you start thinking of how others can gain from what you do.”
“That's very wise,” Hank remarked.
“You are showing signs of such age, Captain Mitchell,” Fujikawa said, the smile gone. “What you are doing is something truly great; something that will last.”
“Look, doc, I'm not a big fan of glory and whatnot,” Hank told him. “I just want to get this done.”
“That is the kind of attitude heroes are made of,” Fujikawa beamed.
“I'm no hero.”
“Heroes never say they are.”
“Good God,” Hank sighed, realizing he simply could not win. “First you say I'm old, then you start throwing out that I'm some kinda big damn hero.”
“You're my big damn hero,” Lena swooned and then kissed her husband on the cheek.
“Okay, that part I like, but the rest-”
“Oh, shutup, Hank,” Lena said.
Fujikawa laughed, “This is why I like you two.”
“So, tell me, doc, what are you gonna do when all this is done with?” Hank asked.
“I want a find a quiet place,” Fujikawa said. “I want to find a quiet place and live a very simple life until I finally pass on from this life and into the next.”
“You have someplace in mind?” asked Lena.
“There is a settlement near Kyoto. I will go there,” Fujikawa said thoughtfully. “And what about you, Mitchell-san?”
“We'll always find something to do, Lena and I,” Hank replied as he brought his wife in closer with a good ol' fashioned side hug. “Somewhere, somehow, the world always needs some kinda fixing.”
Fujikawa sighed, “I wish it were not so. I cannot tell you how much I long for everything to be simple.”
“Well, it never is.”
“All of my life, I wanted nothing more than to make the world a simpler place. That is why I chose communications technology, captain. I thought that I could make the world simpler by making the way people communicate simpler. I am hoping to do that with this network, Captain Mitchell. Look around. People are sending messages to each other and nothing is easy, nothing is simple. Everyone is competing to own the best ways of communicating, but all of the easiest, cheapest, and simplest ways are slowly dying. I want to fix that as the last thing I ever do. This is my gift to the world.”
“It's a fine gift,” Hank said hoping to avoid getting too sentimental.
But Lena noted, “You say that... sadly.”
“No, not because he's-” She knew Hank was talking about his age. “Doctor, you are happy you're doing this, right? You seem apprehensive.”
Fujikawa hesitated, “Of course, of course. It is all merely so daunting. It will good to have it done, yet I am saddened to see my time working coming to a close.”
“Makes sense,” Lena said as she gave the Hank the “I-don't-buy-it” look.
Hank nodded to his wife and then told Fujikawa, “We can discuss this another time, doc. Meanwhile, I owe my wife a good, Lisbon dinner and I'm starting to get hungry. See you tomorrow?”
“Of course, captain,” Fujikawa told them as he gave them a polite bow. “I look forward to it.”
“Likewise,” Hank returned the bow, took his wife's hand, and they went off towards the city. “What's wrong?” He asked as soon as they were out of earshot.
“I don't know,” Lena told him sincerely. “I wish I did.”
“Let's worry about it later,” Hank said, noting the beauty of the city before them. It was not what it once was, but Lisbon was the closest thing the world had to a truly beautiful, populated landmark left. Most other cities with true, old world architecture were either destroyed or completely overrun. Such was not the case with Lisbon. It stood and it was a marvel to behold, especially in the world's post-apocalyptic landscape.
It was certainly romantic and Hank hoped to take full advantage....