From the massive window in his mother's office, Sergei stared down at the expanse of Boston below him. The sun rose in the harbor. Sergei enjoyed the sight of Boston as she resurrected from the night. The beauty reminded him of all of his plans to bring a new day to the battered world.
The door opened and in walked Isadora flanked by a uniformed Steelewood guard. Sergei approached them saying, “There's no need. Leave us.”
The guard left.
Isadora took a long look around the room but kept quiet. She found nothing amiss or out of place except that her satchel was sitting neatly beside her desk. The last time she had seen it was in her car. She wondered if Sergei had left her PPS.
“Mother,” Sergei said. “I knew you would come.”
“Of course, Sergei.” Isadora snapped into action mode. She did not let her traveler's fatigue affect her resolve. “You're about to ruin everything I've worked for. How could I not come?”
“I'm not ruining anything. I'm fixing it. I'm helping you.”
“Is that my bag?” She pointed to her satchel.
“Yes,” Sergei said. “I had your car brought back to headquarters. It's in your parking space in the garage. You'll find everything in there.”
Isadora set the bag onto the desk and opened it. She was surprised to find both the P99 Goodwin's men had taken from her and her smaller, more compact PPS. “You've left my guns.”
“On your back, mother, is doubtlessly a pistol. So, what difference does it make that I give you two more?”
“If you knew I was armed, you could have had your men disarm me.”
“Mother, you and I both know that we are just as dangerous armed or disarmed. Your bare hands are worth an arsenal.” Sergei turned around. “That's all beside the point. You won't shoot me.”
“I hope I won't have to.”
“Why wouldn't you have to? You think you can persuade me? You think that I can be convinced that I'm not doing the right thing?” Sergei scoffed. “Mother, I hope for the very same thing you hope for. I hope that I can persuade you, that you'll see that my way is better, that my way offers the surest path to a better world. I'm open to hearing what you have to say and I am open to learning from you, but I am not open to changing.”
She sighed, “Sergei, what exactly are you planning?”
He faced his mother again. “We're going to start with Europe. Europe presents an area densely populated with old-world buildings and technology and relatively small stretches of countryside. It will be the easiest place to begin a campaign of annihilation against the creatures.”
“From there, I want to colonize Europe and establish more safe zone cities. With more land and resources, more can be accomplished. Once the European campaign is finished, we'll look at our present cities and expand outward from there. We have Boston, so then we'll claim all of Massachusetts and beyond.”
“You have the manpower to take on billions?”
“The sheer numbers don't matter. We have guns, we have bombs, we have tanks... we have the advantage.”
“They're disorganized, not equipped in the slightest-”
“The most generous estimates have the world at four million people. Less than a fifth of those are soldiers. Even less than that are at your disposal.”
“Once they see what we can accomplish, they'll rally behind me. We will take the world back, or at least most of it. There are desolate parts of the world which we needn't bother with.”
“You've thousands against billions. Mathematically speaking, that's ridiculous, Sergei. You know that. That's not to mention-”
“This isn't about mathematics. But I've done the maths and this is possible. It can work.”
“Just because it can work doesn't mean it will work. Don't you think I've explored these options before? I could find no justification for-”
“Enough,” Sergei interrupted. “It isn't six in the morning and we're already fighting.” He then wore a glib smile. “That won't do at all. I've left a change of clothes in your private wash, so why don't you shower? I'll send for some breakfast.”
“Fine,” Isadora said. She pulled the Browing Hi-Power off her belt, ejected the magazine, and racked the slide. She set it down on the desk then drew the PPS from her bag. With a quick pull of the slide, she knew it was loaded and absolutely ready to shoot. The PPS had been one of her sidearms for nearly three decades. She knew it like an old friend. And it was smaller and lighter than Bertrand's pistol. So, she chose to carry it around instead. Had she known where her leather holster for her P99 was, she would have carried it instead, but the PPS stands the comfortable choice.
Isadora took no time showering and grooming. She touched up her makeup, but only barely, and then put her graying-black hair into a ponytail. She never put her hair into a ponytail, but this time was different. Appearance was everything in Isadora's line of work, but today she just didn't give a shit.
When she came back out of the bathroom, she found Sergei seated at a table with breakfast waiting. The sudden furniture surprised her, but she brushed it aside quickly and sat across from her son. For a few seconds, they locked eyes. Isadora tried hiding her anger, but Sergei said, “I'm hoping you'll be over that soon.”
“What?” Isadora cut into the omelet before her.
“You will be.” Sergei set down his fork. “You will soon find that you have no choice but to accept my way. And once you do, you'll find that I was right all along.”
Isadora kept quiet. Best not to argue with him.
“Indulge me, if you will. I said you were free to go, but I'm curious... where will you go?”
“I- I honestly hadn't thought that far.”
“Will you join the Holdsworth? That piece of junk named for my father?”
“Or is it named for my father?”
“Perhaps it should be named the Hompton.”
“The- what? Where did you hear that name?”
“Andrew Hompton. The last head of the United States Department of Homeland Security. A man you were sleeping with for information. One of many, of course, but Hompton is special. Andrew Hompton is my father, not Paul Holdsworth. I was in St. Petersburg not long ago. That's where you buried Paul. I had his body exhumed and they ran tests. There is no way that Paul Holdsworth is my father.”
“No, Sergei, Hompton and I used protection. Paul and I did not. You're Paul's child.”
“You've never noticed how I look nothing like Paul?” Sergei scoffed. “Paul isn't my real father and you've never been my mother.”
“Listen to me. Please, just listen to me.”
Isadora dropped her fork.
“I've read the files on me. I've seen what you said about me. You never wanted a son in me, you wanted a weapon and you've got one. Except this weapon backfired. I know all about the psychological training you put on me to make me see you as nothing but good. How could you do that to your own son?”
“I never had a father and I never had a mother. I'm not even a son; not really. I'm an experiment. An experiment gone as wrong as your company and your world. Now I'm going to fix it.”
“Sergei!” Isadora slammed her fist into the table. The silverware jumped.
“What? What could you possibly say to make this better?”
“You're angry with me, I understand that, but punish me. Not the whole world.”
“I'm not punishing anyone! I'm helping them. I'm saving them. I'm saving them from you and everything else you've failed to do.”
Isadora pushed her chair back and stood. “Sergei, you've gone mad!”
“Have I?” Sergei shook is head. “No, I don't think I have. If anyone's mad, it's you. But go on, mother. Go on and defend yourself. I want to hear this.”
She grit her teeth and then sat down again. “Sergei, you were born right around the time when I was put in charge of Steelewood's espionage division. The world around you was one of secrets and murder, not to mention the monsters all over the world. I couldn't raise you like a normal child. Hell, I don't think I should have raised you at all. But I did because I loved you. I gave you all your training, all of the hell you were put through for your own good.”
“My own good?” Sergei scoffed.
“In a world with seven billion cannibalistic undead, there was no way I could have raised you normally. You would have been killed. So, I gave you best training we could give you.”
“But that doesn't explain the conditioning or-”
“We conditioned you because-” Isadora stopped. “We conditioned you because we were afraid of something like this happening. What if you went rogue? It's something we do to all of our spies and hit men.”
“But I was different, mother.”
“Yes, you were. I love you, remember? I wanted to make sure you loved me back.”
“That's now what the file says. I'm described over and over as the Shadow Project and as a weapon. My real name is barely on the file.”
“Yes, Sergei, I wanted you to be a weapon. There wasn't another way to raise a child in this world. It's terrible but-”
“That's not true! What about the Mitchell kids? Look at them!”
Isadora slumped. “You're right. I've made mistakes. Raising you was one of the largest ones. I did many terrible things. For a long time, I thought you were the one good thing I did for the world, but now I'm not so sure. You're about to ruin everything I've done and worked for.”
“I am the one good thing. I am about to repair all the damage you've done. Rest easy, mother, your time is over.” Sergei stood and walked to the window. “I am going to set everything right.”
Isadora stood and made her way to the door. “I'll be back, Sergei. I can't- I can't be in here anymore.”
“Fine,” Sergei said. “But don't leave the building.”
“You said I was free to go.”
“Of course you did,” she sighed. “You're my son.”