"Nearly forty eight hours after his followers launched a global cyber terrorism attack, William Taggart, founder of the disgraced anti-augmentation organization formerly known as Humanity Front, remains at large. U.N. Peacekeeping forces captured the Antarctic site known as Panchaea, hoping to find and arrest Taggart and his followers but no trace of Taggart has been found. Stay tuned to PICUS news for up to the minute coverage of the crisis at Panchaea."
Adam switched off the screen nonchalantly and tossed the remote back to the boss' desk. "The crisis is over," he said coolly, his eyes still focused on the blank screen. "I don't know why you're watching this shit, boss."
"Damn right it's over, Adam." Serif leaned forward in his chair, examining the baseball that sat there without picking it up. "Taggart's on the run, Tai Yong is in a panic, and best of all Serif Industries has nowhere to go but up."
"It's a lie," Adam said simply, though they both knew the comment was far more complex than any words could express. The lie was all Adam had thought about on the ride back to Detroit. After he'd worked so hard to uncover the truth, to find Megan and her team and lay everything bare, he'd just covered it up. In the moment, he chalked it all up to what was best for humanity. They weren't ready to hear the truth. Who would believe it anyway? As the helicopter got closer and closer to Detroit, though, Adam had become more and more uncomfortable with the decision he'd made. In the end, all he'd ever done was to restore the status quo. All he ever did was what David Serif paid him to do. That's what was making him so damn uncomfortable.
"A necessary lie." Sarif took up the baseball and tossed it into the air a few times before continuing. "You talk to Megan yet?"
Adam finally turned away from the screen to face his boss but made a special effort to keep his face and voice blank of expression. "No. I didn't know she was here."
"Where else would she be? I figured it's best for her to lay low until all the heat dies down a little. The city's still torn apart thanks to those damn riots and communications are haywire right now. Homeland wants her, Jenson, and you, too. I've called in every favor I had to keep them off your backs for now. You two have been through enough."
"Why wait? We'll have to talk to them eventually."
"Adam…" Serif absentmindedly let the baseball slip out from between his fingers and crash to his desk. He sighed as he rearranged everything. "I just want to make sure we're on the same page here. What happened at Panchaea…No one needs to know. The more people know about it, the more confused they're going to be and confused people make mistakes, mistakes like blaming this company, you or me for what happened. Are you with me?"
Adam stared at Sarif, watched the monitors in his retinal implants register Sarif's increased heart rate and respiration. Nerves. He was afraid Adam would go public with what he knew. Even after all that, didn't Sarif trust him? "Yeah, boss," he said and averted his eyes. "I'm with you."
"Good. Now, what did you want to see me about, Adam?" Adam reached into the pocket of his trenchcoat and produced a datachip that he handed to Sarif. "What's this?"
"Resignation?" Sarif turned the chip upside down and in a circle, as if moving it around would tell him more. "Adam, don't be ridiculous. You can't quit."
"Why not?" Adam had been afraid of how Sarif would react. Maybe it was a little selfish of him to turn in his resignation now, just when the company was starting to take off in a whole new direction. Maybe it was wrong. But after Panchaea, he couldn't go on pretending that everything David Sarif did was saintly and he certainly didn't know if he was ready to sit behind a desk ever again, not after what he'd seen. He couldn't tell Sarif all that. It just wasn't in Sarif's nature to understand.
"Because…" Sarif trailed off and then stood. "Look, Adam, why don't you just take some leave time. I know I pulled you back a little early. I know this has been hard and maybe things won't ever be exactly the way they were six months ago but...I mean, Christ, Adam. We're like family. We just got Megan back. Don't run off on me now. Serif Industries is at the top of its game! I need men I can trust running things downstairs but I need you at the top of your game. Take some time off, as much as you want." Sarif snapped the chip in half with his fingers. "But, dammit, don't you quit on me." There was unexpected hurt in the boss' voice as he threw the broken chip into the wastebasket. A part of Adam wanted to believe Sarif was upset about more than just losing one of the most expensive investments he'd ever made but he was skeptical. David Sarif was an egoist, a good man, but an egoist.
Adam crossed his arms. He didn't think any amount of time off was going to fix his moral apprehension. Adam fully expected that a few weeks into his leave, Sarif would discover his company ran just fine without Adam Jenson there to monitor a security terminal all day. "Whatever you say, boss."
"Good. Now go home and get some rest. God knows, you've earned it."
Adam left the office and punched the lobby button on the elevator feeling heavy. It was a common feeling, the LIMB doctors assured him, and it would pass with time. The headaches, nerve pain and nightmares were apparently normal, too, all symptoms of his brain meshing flawlessly with the technology that saved his life. He'd never asked for it, never wanted it, and yet he wasn't sure he would have turned down the prostheses if Sarif had bothered to ask. He probably wouldn't have opted for all the upgrades, that was for sure.
The elevator stopped on the second floor. Adam almost stepped out when he saw Megan waiting to get on. She looked like she hadn't slept in weeks, though, and he knew better than anyone that she'd been through hell recently, even if it was a hell of her own making. So, when the doors started to close before she stepped on, Adam reached out and held the door for her. Megan didn't even thank him, she just stepped on and stood as far away from him as possible. When the door closed on them, the air in the elevator grew almost too thick to breathe. Adam cleared his throat. He couldn't stand the silence, not when there was so much left to say. He still needed to ask her how far back the betrayal went, why she never told him she was using his DNA, why she didn't put up more resistance against the Illuminati, why she couldn't somehow get a message to him… But when he opened his mouth, all he could ask her was, "Which floor?"
"Lobby," she answered without looking at him.
There was silence for a moment before Adam tried again to get one of those important questions out, failing miserably. "You talk to your mother?"
That piqued his curiosity. Cassandra would no doubt want to know that her daughter was still alive and well. If it had been him coming back from the dead, his grieving mother would probably be the first person he'd call if she were still alive. "She should know, Megan."
"Know what? That her daughter willingly assisted in the worst terrorist attacks in history? Or should I tell her the truth, Jenson?" He could feel Megan looking at him. "Hell, I don't even know if I know what the truth is anymore."
The elevator doors slid open and Megan stepped hurriedly out. Adam followed. "Where are you going," he called after Megan but she didn't stop for him. She just barged through the front doors and he went charging after her. "Megan!"
Adam pushed through the doors and out into the cool Detroit night air. There was a crowd on the front steps, reporters, mostly, swarming Megan. She was trying desperately to fight through them without much luck. Instinct kicked in and Adam surged forward, using his augmented arms to push the ravenous crowd of microphones back from her. The sudden movement knocked Megan down onto the pavement. He shoved one overly aggressive microphone out of his face and sent it rolling down the stairs. "This is private property," he shouted at them. "Which means you're all trespassing. Now beat it!" Slowly, and not without the flashing of cameras and the shouting of accusations and questions, the mob dispersed. Adam offered Megan a hand up. She stared at it, eyes wide, gaze somewhere far away, maybe remembering the night it all happened. Six months seemed like such a long time ago. It could have been another life, they could have been other people. After Omega Ranch, maybe she didn't even want to touch him. Maybe, she didn't want anything at all to do with him now, a lifetime later. Then, Adam's neural hubs registered the change in pressure as her hand slipped into his.
He pulled her up. "Now, Dr. Reed, where were you off to in such a hurry you didn't have time to listen to me warn you about the throng of reporters waiting for you?" She turned her head away and didn't answer him. "You do have somewhere to go, don't you, Megan?"
"I guess I don't know. I mean, I'm sure they rented my apartment by now. I'd go to mother's but I'm afraid I'd scare her. And what if those Homeland Security assholes show up? I don't know if her heart could take it. I thought…I thought, maybe if I could just get some air…"
"I was locked up for so long, I didn't even remember what the city looked like, smelled like…"
Adam sighed and wished the reporters would stop taking pictures of them together. They'd almost certainly misinterpret everything he said and did. He leaned in closer to her and put his back to the reporters to try and keep them from recording him. "Megan, if you need a place to stay that isn't the basement of Serif Industries, all you have to do is ask." What are you doing, moron, his brain was saying. This isn't the same Megan you knew six months ago. This is the woman who helped engineer a biochip that turned every augmented human in the world into a mindless attack zombie. This is the woman who stole your DNA and nearly cost you your life…and you're going to invite her to your apartment?
"I…I thought you were angry with me, Adam."
"I am," Adam said, finally letting go of her hand. "But I'm not going to let you freeze on the street, not after all the trouble I went through to get you out. I'm offering you the sofa. You want it or not?"
"Yes, Adam," she said quietly. "I want it."