General Bertrand led the Mitchells and Isadora to the Fujikawa Network control center. He did not bother with an armed escort of any sort, which Liam found quite unusual. Still, Bertrand acted like an old and tired dog. Liam did not to guess about people, but he presumed the aging general ready to retire and be done with Steelewood conspiracies and zombies. The man was certainly only enough to have seen the world before the apocalypse. He knew a better world. It was natural to assume the Bertrand wanted that world back, but was ready to give up his fight. Liam pitied him, but was also grateful for his reasonableness.
They entered the mainframe control room and found a handful of workers and Fujikawa himself laboring on something or another. Liam did not recognize two of the technicians and assumed them to be Steelewood personnel. Bertrand, still carrying his Welsh accent, ordered, “I want everyone out of here except Dr. Fujikawa.”
Without a fuss, the technicians complied. Fujikawa looked at the Mitchells, but quickly and nervously looked away.
Emma shot Liam a furious glance. He knew what she meant. She was telling him to do something reasonable before she does something rash. Liam said, “Dr. Fujikawa, what the hell is going on?”
Fujikaka did not look him in the eye. He quietly muttered, “I am sorry.”
Liam came to his side and demanded, “Explain yourself!”
“They promised that things would be simple, that-”
“Save it.” Liam put his fist down on the desk. He did not slam it, only put it there. “How do they have access to the network? You said my password would-”
“It did!” Fujikawa exclaimed. “I never lied about that! Your password prevented Goodwin from taking over the network, did it not? It worked!”
“But Steelewood has the network now!”
“Yes, yes, they do.”
“I cannot. I can only say that I am sorry.”
Fujikawa typed in a set of commands into a computer. The large projector screen against the wall lit up in blue and on the center appeared the words: ESTABLISHING CONNECTION. Fujikawa said, “You must let Fleming-san explain.”
“Fleming-san? Sergei!” Isadora exclaimed.
The blue image disappeared. It was replaced by Sergei, who sat behind Isadora's desk in Boston. He wore an all-black suit, was clean-shaven, and his black hair was groomed to perfection. Liam noted how much like his mother he looked. “Can he see us?” Liam asked.
Isadora did not even need to know. She stood before the screen and said, “Sergei!”
“Mother,” he said. “I've killed Goodwin.”
“You did?” Bertrand asked. “You told me that-”
“Is that General Bertrand? Is he there?”
Bertrand stepped beside Isadora and said, “I want to know the truth, Mr. Fleming. What is going on?”
“I lied to you, General Bertrand,” Sergei sighed. “I'd like to apologize, but I cannot. I needed you on my side, at least temporarily. Lying was the only way to guarantee that. If you can't forgive me, I'll accept your resignation.”
Bertrand looked down to the floor. “That won't be necessary.”
“Good,” Sergei said. “Now, I'd like to speak with my mother and the Mitchell family. Step out, please.”
“Very well.” Bertrand said nothing as he left the building. Liam felt pity for him.
Isadora said, “Sergei, you have a lot of bloody explaining to do.”
“Yes, I do,” Sergei said. “Mother, I will not apologize to my subordinates. I will apologize to you.” He sighed. “Mother, Steelewood is no longer your company, it is mine. Goodwin's takeover was not his takeover, it was mine. He did not realize that. Goodwin never worked for me and I never worked for him. I did, however, encourage him to make his move when it suited me. Goodwin was a stupid slug.”
“You killed him?” Isadora asked.
“Yes. I killed him the night you fled Boston. As soon as he was cold and dead, the company was mine. I've been all over the world setting the pieces on the board. I placed myself in Steelewood's intense bureaucracy, convinced the right people, and set my place in this hierarchy. Anyone left to oppose me is powerless to do so.”
“Sergei, I- I can't believe what I'm hearing.” Isadora shook her head. “Why? Why are you doing this? Since when have you been hungry for power?”
“I am not hungry for power! This isn't about power, mother, it never was.”
“Then what is it about, Sergei? Make me understand.”
“It's about the world! Have you seen the world you rule, mother? It's a disaster, it's chaos, it's hell, it's burning, it's rubble, it's- it's horrifying. And what have you done-”
“Don't you think I know that?”
“So, what have done about it? Nothing! You sit in your high-rise office, you ride a private jet, you live in a luxurious apartment, and you live in the very lap of wealth while everyone else suffers! Don't you see? You know nothing of the real world, mother!”
“Oh, don't I? Sergei, I was there when the world turned into this hell! You weren't. You've only seen the world I've been working to rebuild.”
“It isn't rebuilt, mother. It's a travesty.”
“Of course it is! It's been twenty-five years, Sergei, hardly enough time to-”
“Enough! Twenty-five years was plenty of time. Each and every city could be secure from-”
“Sergei! How are you- you're no different from Goodwin! This is exactly the conversation I had with-”
“Don't compare me to that slug!” Sergei finally broke into shout. “He wanted to seize control of the world, not to make it better, but for his own lust for power. I can do this right. I've been there. I've seen the world. I know what it needs. With the Fujikawa Network in place, we have the coordination to put order back into the chaos. I will put order back-”
“People don't need to be ordered, Sergei.”
“Enough.,” Sergei said waving his hand. “I tire of this. Mother, I wish you no harm. I still love you.”
Isadora said nothing during Sergei's pause.
“There's an aircraft waiting for you at Lisbon's airport. Mother, I'd like you to take. Please, join me here in Boston.”
“We can discuss this further and I can be with you. I won't keep you prisoner. You will be free to leave after you've seen me.”
“I'll come,” Isadora said. Liam expected to take a moment to think it over, but she did not. Her reply was nothing short of instantaneous.
“It's ready to go when you are,” Sergei said. “May I speak to the Mitchell family? Liam in particular.”
Liam stepped beside Isadora. Emma followed. Lena stayed in her corner. “What do you want?” Liam asked.
“What the hell was that business in Lisbon?” Emma asked before Sergei could say anything. “I almost died because-”
“I want to apologize,” Sergei said. “I am sorry you had to be in the middle of this.”
“Answer my question, asshole!”
Sergei rolled his eyes. “Goodwin had a single unit of elite operatives, some of Steelewood's best. These men were a threat if I did not eliminate them. I could not do that on my own, so I got your help. The man who shot you went off his orders. I gave them an explicit order not to open fire on you or your family, Emma. I am sorry that-”
“Bullshit!” Emma snarled.
Liam said, “Emma, that's-”
“Liam, don't!” She turned back to the screen. “Sergei, I am going to get down there and I am going to kick your ass!”
“Emma!” Liam grabbed her shoulder. “Stop!”
“Sergei, say what you need to say.”
“Thank you. I do mean my apology, but I also wanted to ask for your help.”
“Fat damn chance,” Emma said.
“Please, here me out. I'll need your help to do altruistic works around the world. Do remember the days when the-”
“Sergei,” Lena said walking into the frame. “There is not a chance in heck we will ever help you. You stole from us, you almost got us killed, and you betrayed us. I don't get folks like you. We were kind to you. When you asked, we gave you a place to stay and we treated you like family. So, what do you do? You hatch your little plan that gets my husband killed!” She broke into tears. “You- you are a monster. And we will never help you.”
Liam put his arm around his mother. She cried into his shoulder. Liam said, “There's nothing left for us to talk about. Cut the connection.”
Fujikakawa complied. The video feed of Sergei vanished. An awkward silence hung over the room. Lena still cried, but soon found a degree of composure. She let go Liam's shoulder and took a deep breath. That paragraph was the most she had said at since Hank was murdered. Liam looked around. No one spoke. Emma fumed in one of the office chairs, Fujikawa worked on something or another could not hide his remorse, and Isadora put her hand to her chin in thought. Any surprise or sorrow from their conversation with Sergei hid behind a firm wall of stolidity. Liam admired her detachment.
Isadora sighed, “This is my fault. I'll go to him and I'll try to fix this. Liam would you please accompany to the airport? We have much to discuss.”