Jul 24, 2012


While Emma said that she hated the attention of being in the hospital, she appreciated the advantages. For a while. Once hospital could become a regularity, the constant questions, “How are you feeling?” and “Can I get you anything?” grated on her nerves. Which is why she was absolutely overjoyed to finally be discharged. At around five o'clock, after three weeks in care, they finally sat her down in a wheelchair and rolled into Isadora's limousine. Emma liked that part.

The sun had set by the time Emma was shown her room at Steelewood HQ. Isadora arranged for the Mitchell family to receive the best treatment possible. Steelewood's executive chefs prepared them the finest post-apocalyptic dining available, their suites were fit for royalty with silk sheets and jacuzzi tubs, and an intern was placed to answer their every desire. Liam ignored all of the accommodations and instead chose to sleep back on the Holdsworth to be with the crew as they worked on refits. Lena, however, seemed to be avoiding the Holdsworth.

After dinner at about eight, Emma retired herself to her room. Her medication made her feel tired and she did not like being out where others could see her. She felt as though they were constantly staring at her new prosthetic hand. There was no helping her self-consciousness about it. She wore long sleeves and put a leather glove over the plastic hand to hide it, but she noticed the damn thing constantly. That and she was clumsy with it. Trying to do much of anything with just one hand proved a worth challenge.

And it was not only the hand. Her face still bore the scars from her mauling. And she still walked with a slight limp from where her thigh had been bit. Add to that, pain lingered. Dr. Lorentz prescribed plenty of oxycodone, but medication could only solve so much. Most of Emma's problem wasn't even the pain, it was all in her head. Physical pain she could take, but emotional torment got to her. High emotion screwed with her judgment and she knew it. Getting worked made her stupid enough to wake up at four-thirty in the morning and sneak out.

It was still dark when Emma woke up. She quickly put on her clothes and attached her prosthetic. In her estimation, she would never get over seeing a hand there but not being able to move it. The plastic hand kept an open, neutral position. More than once, Emma tried to clench a fist. She hoped for some strange miracle, but nothing happened. Just that smattering of hope was enough to frustrate her.

She stepped out of her suite and was careful to keep quiet and make sure no one was watching. After a moment's worth or hall roaming, she finally found the elevator. When she arrived, she found the ground floor quiet and mostly vacant, save a few guards and a snoozing secretary. Surprisingly, none of them paid Emma any heed whatsoever. She expected at least one of them to stare at the freakazoid amputee.

Once outside, the cold Boston fall air assaulted her immediately. The only extra layer she wore was her jacket, which was not very heavy. Her gloves would help matters, but still she shivered. That didn't matter though. Emma had not been outside in too long and just smelling natural, non-conditioned air felt amazing. A gentle breeze caressed her face. The air in the hospital had been so paused, but outside, it moved with its own mind. Here, the night and the wind felt like a friend there to console her weighted heart.

She followed her steps from the night of the siege. Walking that path without the violence and blasting warfare around her felt empty and even ominous. She was out in an area she knew dangerous, but was completely unarmed. Or maybe it wasn't so dangerous. It didn't matter whether it was or wasn't. Emma could not have felt more vulnerable.

But she felt better as soon as she got to the Fujikawa hub at the docks. It was the not the building she searched for, but the ocean. She longed to be back on the ship, back at sea, back where the action was. She longed for the better days when life was simply about kicking ass and not complicated by betrayal and shadow games. She sorely hated hated the cloak and dagger world of Steelewood Industries. That world cost her an arm and mangled her face. Emma would never be the same. She wanted the old days back.

Or so she thought.

Staring at the moonlit ocean brought feelings of anguish and anger. At first, Emma could not explain her feelings to herself, but she soon remembered LeFleur,the Frenchman who was killed because of Sergei and his maniacal scheme. But before LeFleur died, he asked Emma one thing. She never gave him an answer. Emma realized that she still wanted to give him one. After a moment of scanning the harbor, she found the Holdsworth at rest by the drydocks. The refits were almost done and she would be ready cast off soon. In a breath, she realized that she had her answer.

“What are you doing out this early?” Liam asked.

“What? I could say the same to you, lame-o,” Emma said. She didn't turn around. She stared off into the distance as light crept over the horizon.

“Just out for a walk before we start work this morning,” Liam said. “You okay?”

“I'm fine,” Emma sighed. “No, no, I'm not, Liam. I lost my damn hand.”

“Is that gonna be your thing from now on?”

“Wh-” Emma rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I guess it is. Woe is me.”

Liam stood beside her and said, “It's not your hand you're thinking about right now, is it?”

“No, it's- Liam, I'm not going.”

“Not going where?”

“With you. On the Holdsworth. I'm done.”

“Emma, what? Why?”

“I can't do it anymore. I want to see life out here on land. I don't know exactly what I want to do, but I know I just can't do this anymore. Okay?”

“No!” Liam threw his hands up. “You can't just- Emma, the hell am I supposed to do without you?”

“You did fine getting Sergei without me while I got eaten.”

“Emma, a Steelewood security detail would have shot us if you hadn't helped Ben get that recording sent. Mom and I would be dead if it wasn't for you. And I can't imagine taking on a mission without you.”

“Liam, there aren't going to be missions like the old days. You're the captain now. That means you can't go out so much.”

“Yeah, but I'll need a man the ground and there's no one better than-”

“No, Liam, you need a leader. I'm no leader. You need another you out there to be you're man on the ground. I'm not you. I never will be. And besides, I'm kinda disabled now. Can't exactly be action man anymore.”

“But, Emma-”

“And why the hell am I your man on the ground??”

Liam laughed, “You've got a point. But Emma, there's no one I'd rather have than you.”

“I know. But Liam... I just can't do it.”

“Look, Emma, just promise me you'll think about this. I know I can't talk you out of jack, but- but just put real thought into this, okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” she sighed. The sunlight rising over the horizon became too bright to look at. Emma turned around and said, “I'll think about it.”

Things changed for Isadora Fleming. She wore her hair back in a ponytail, something she had never done until Sergei's insurrection. She wore clothes lighter in color, or at least something besides her typical black and white work outfit. And further, she stopped carrying her gun on her back. She still kept a sidearm in her office and one in her bag, but not on her belt. Doing so liberated her in a way she did not expect. Not only was the flat of her back suddenly lighter, but she no longer found herself noticing it constantly. By extension, she found herself more relaxed.

Looking down at the cool Boston morning from her office certainly helped matters as well. She stood at her regular place at the window and sipped on a mug of Steelewood's atrocity they called coffee. Still, it was hot and held a gracious volume of caffeine. Isadora drank and sighed, but not the depressing sort of sigh she usually breathed, but one of relief and maybe an edge of contentment. In the last three weeks, life had gone nowhere but for the better.

Isadora sipped again and readied herself for her first day back as CEO of Steelewood Industries. Just the night before, the board had, save for two votes, unanimously voted her back to her position. There was plenty of work to do, but all of it could wait on Isadora to finish her coffee.

Leaning against Isadora's desk was Lena, who wore an outfit she described as a business-y disguise. She wore her disguise in order to blend in better at Steelewood, but also because her cheap wool and old cloth outfits from the Holdsworth were terribly discomforting when compared to the natural massaging qualities of corporate cotton. Lena had long forgotten just how comfortable expensive clothing could feel.

Isadora finished her coffee and walked back to her desk in a manner almost cheerily. Lena said, “You seem like you're in an awful good mood today.”

“I am,” Isadora said. “I have my job back and there isn't anyone big enough to stop me from getting things done. It's an open field right now with a bright horizon.”

“Just seems odd is all,” Lena shrugged. She stepped away from Isadora's desk and turned around. Isadora took her seat. “It's just been three weeks since, well-”

“I know.” Isadora's cheer diminished. “See the blood stain on the floor?”
“No, I can't,” Lena said, searching the ground for any sign of where Sergei was killed. “They cleaned it up good.”

“I do,” Isadora said. “I can't help but look around me and see the blood I've spilled. I killed my own son. And he was right.”


“Allow me to finish. His fascist dream of ruling the world by his hand alone was wrong, but he was right that we- that I was doing something wrong.”

“I don't understand-”

“When was the last time Steelewood did anything remotely humanitarian? We're just a military organization making backbone for the rest of the world, but we're doing nothing to help but holding our guns and expecting the world to answer to us. And what choice to they have? Sure, we give the world protection from the monsters, but nothing else. Nothing at all. It's time we did more. I want to refocus company resources to work on rebuilding, on opening medical centers... Lena, do you remember what you and your husband's original vision was for the Holdsworth?”

Lena's expression shifted in a subtle way from a more positive interest, to a morose curiosity. “Yeah, of course. Never lost it.”

“I want to do that. I want to make Steelewood Industries and organization built around doing that sort of good. And I'm going to need help. Yours.”

“Wh- mine? What do you mean?”

“Lena.” Isadora stood up from her desk and approached her friend. “I know this might be strange to you, but I'm offering you a position here. At Steelewood.”

“Wh- what would I be doin'?”

“Before you arrived in Boston with Sergei, the first time, I had a personal assistant and a bodyguard named Stanley. He helped out with everything before betraying me. I want to give you his duties, except I don't expect you to be my bodyguard and I'd want something more out of you.”

“I'm listenin'.”

“Steelewood is not built for kindness and helping people, but you are. I want you at my side as not just as assistant, but also an adviser. You've got something I don't have, Lena, and that's a real heart. I can't help but see the world as targets and objectives. I don't think about how others feel. I think about the most efficient way to accomplish my missions. And I've achieved efficiency, Lena. I've made this company into a super efficient well-oiled machine. It is a very potent and formidable machine, the very best of its kind. I should be proud of the machine I've made, but I'm not. I can't be. Lena, I want to make an organization that's more than a machine. I want to put heart where there isn't one. And I need your help. I want your heart, Lena.”

“I- I'll have to think about it.”

“I understand. I'm asking a lot.”

“Yeah,” Lena said. “I'll think about it. I promise.”

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