Feb 14, 2012


It took only about twenty minutes for Bobby Ramirez to have equipment for Liam, Emma, and Sergei ready and up on the dock. Along with their guns and tactical gear, he also brought out one of two Humvees stored on the Holdsworth. Into the back, he loaded everything they might need, including a small arsenal. In addition to their regular assault rifles, the trio would have access to shotguns, sniper rifles, and even explosives. Besides weapons, they packed survival necessities and them some: flares, a tent, first-aid, and even a defibrillator. In no uncertain terms, they were set.

“Hey, man, I think that's everything,” Bobby Ramirez said to the Liam, Emma, Hank, Lena, Sergei, and Isadora, who all waited by the Humvee. “She's all gassed up and couldn't be in better shape, mano.”

“Thanks, Bobby,” Liam said. He turned back to his parents and told them, “We'll be back before you know it.”

“Stay in touch,” Hank ordered.

“Yeah, we will,” Liam promised as he got behind the wheel of the Humvee. Emma sat beside him in the passenger's seat while Sergei took the back. As soon as the doors closed, he hit the gas and they were off.

It hit Liam then that he had not told his father about the second password. He wondered whether he should have or not, but decided such deliberation was pointless. Mum was the word and it would have to stay that way until he got back. Besides, Liam wanted to be the one to hit the magic button to get the whole network operational. If his father knew the password, he might not even be able to see it go online. And so Liam decided, if he had to wait, everyone had to wait.

Hank, Lena, and Isadora returned to the Fujikawa-Mitchell line headquarters and took seats in the mainframe room. The emergency lights provided ample lighting to see, but it remained a tad awkward. Lena did not mind. She really just wanted to catch back up with her old friend, Isadora, and find out what bothered her so much. It took a lot to agitate a woman like her and something seemed to really be getting her.

Hank, as usual, took the lead, “Alright, Isadora, what happened to Constance?”

Isadora sighed and looked down at the floor before looking into their eyes and telling them, “I suppose I should tell you the whole story, starting with the last few years. I need you to understand.”

Before Hank could press her, Lena softly spoke first, “Take your time.”

Isadora collected herself and then told them everything. She told them about her rise to power and about how it worked to manage the most powerful force in the world. She introduced them to Peter Goodwin and explained just how much of a threat he was. And then she told them how it was an unknown, anonymous informant who kept her forewarned. She told the story of how she met Constance, how Stanley betrayed her and killed him, and how she feared for her life. At the end of her story, she sincerely said, “And I'm sorry.”

“It ain't your fault,” Lena said quickly, again talking before her husband. She knew him well enough to know that he was going to be angry. Isadora did not need his anger.

Hank grit his teeth, “So, this bastard Goodwin wants the network?”

“It isn't your network he really wants,” Isadora said. “It's the world. He won't stop there at just owning global communication. He'll make it sound like he has the world's interest at heart and he may even believe he does, but I promise you, he really wants nothing more than power.”

Lena swallowed, but found no words. She wanted to say something, but this world of conspiracy eluded her.

Hank asked, “What can we do about him?”

“I don't know,” Isadora stood. “I really don't. I've been looking for a solution for a long time and there isn't one. I've considered simply killing him off, but there's no telling what sort of repercussions that may have. Sadly, Goodwin needs to make the first move. He's white on the board and they move first.”

“Well, the only way I can think of to protect the network is to keep it locked down,” Hank thought aloud. “But that would defeat the purpose of the network in the first place. Nobody's getting the network now anyway.” He sighed, “I mean, dammit, we built this whole thing in the first place to make the world a more peaceful place, to help things along, and now we've got this? We take a step forward, then they take two steps back. This is completely ridiculous.”

“I agree,” Isadora nodded. “But there isn't anything we can do about it.”

“That's the worst damn part!” Hank slammed his first onto a desk.

Lena put her hand on his shoulder, “We'll be okay.” Hank shook his head. Lena knew he would not believe her, but that it still might help to hear.

“There's nothing we can do now,” Isadora said. “I'm not quite out of tricks up my sleeve though.”

Hank asked, “What do you mean?”

Before Isadora could answer, a crash came from down the hall. Hank and Isadora exchanged troubled glances before both drew their pistols. “What was that?” Lena shook.

Her question was soon answered by a dozen soldiers in Steelewood uniforms bursting into the room with their rifles raised. Lena screamed. Hank and Isadora, in reflex, prepared themselves to fight, but quickly put their reactions in check and lowered their weapons. “What the bloody hell is the meaning of this?” Isadora demanded.

One of the soldiers, one with sergeant stripes, exclaimed, “Drop the guns!”

Hank shrugged and let his fall. Isadora did not comply, “You take orders from me. Drop yours and explain yourself.”

“He doesn't take orders from you, Ms. Fleming,” a gruff, familiar voice said. Out of the shadows came Peter Goodwin who bore a proud, thin smile. “Not anymore.”

“Peter,” Isadora snarled.

“Yes, do as the man says,” Goodwin ordered. “Put your gun down. Let's not make this messy.”

Isadora did as she was told. There was no sense putting up an unwinnable fight. “You're a fool, Peter.”

“I think you're the fool,” he bit back. “I've had Stanley in the bag for years and you never knew. That fatass helping you out was just luck. And now Steelewood is mine. The Fujikawa Network is mine.”

Hank rolled his eyes, “No one has the Fujikawa Network, you stupid idiot.”

Goodwin snarled, “What do you mean?”

“The power's off, jackass.”

“Get it back on!”

“We're working on it,” Hank said. “We sent some people up to the power station to get it fixed, meanwhile we're just gonna have to wait.”

Goodwin grit his teeth.

“Well, isn't this awkward?” Hank quipped. “Proud of your useless little takeover, dickhead?”

Using the surprisingly firm back end of his hand, Goodwin delivered a slap across Hank's cheek. “Quiet!” he snapped. He turned back to his men and ordered, “Cuff 'em and take 'em back to headquarters. We can deal with them there.”

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