Back at Sarif HQ, Freya was still hiding under her desk, watching everyone outside through the intellicams. As she was keeping an eye on several confused augmented employees, still battling the effects of the signal, she saw them abruptly stop. They looked around in a daze, but with cognition and more control of their faculties.
Is it over?
Freya cautiously peeked over the top of her desk, and pulled it back to its former position in the Tech Lab. She slowly deactivated the emergency lock and stepped out into the open. There were no screams, no one running aimlessly. It seemed the crisis had passed.
She saw several people bleeding in the lobby and ran back into her office to find a first aid kit when Eliza Cassan suddenly popped up on the screen.
"May I have your attention, please, everyone. This is Eliza Cassan, preparing to report to you everything that has happened. The how and why of it all. Many of you have recently experienced symptoms of disorientation, rage, violence, and lack of control. This was caused by a signal released by Hugh Darrow from his Panchaea installation, targeting those of you with the recent bio chip released from the LIMB clinics. What you do not know is that this chip was originally designed by an…"
As she spoke, her face flickered. A confused expression crossed her face along with an apologetic look in her eyes and she continued.
"…by Tai Yong Medical CEO Zhao Yun Ru. She coordinated an elaborate plot which involved kidnapping many individuals and subjecting them to torture and manipulation to turn them into components of the most powerful computer processor in history. The bio chip upgrade and the Hyron computer processor were only made possible through the kidnapping and detaining of several prominent scientists who were forced to work under threat of torture and death."
As Eliza continued, Freya was confused. I thought Jensen was going to reveal the presence of the Illuminati as the masterminds behind this attack? Maybe the Illuminati intercepted Jensen's message – after all, they ultimately control Eliza…
Pritchard pulled herself away from the screen and brought the first aid pack downstairs and set to work bandaging people's injuries. She hastily put her hair back in an elastic tie to keep it from falling into her field of view while she was dressing wounds. From the looks of things, Sarif Industries had gotten off relatively easy – she could not see anyone seriously injured. They probably owed their luck to the rioters, whose violence discouraged many people from showing up to work. Not to mention that with how busy everyone was, a lot of people who might have otherwise gotten the upgrade probably forewent it.
The glass doors into the lobby from outside had sustained a lot of damage. Several people had bashed their skulls against the glass with enough force to create some cracks, but not before giving themselves incapacitating head trauma. Luckily, the doors had held and the throngs of people outside had not managed to flood into the building.
"Freya," a familiar voice spoke behind her.
Freya immediately turned around and jumped to her feet. Jensen approached her quickly and brought her into his arms, holding her tightly. She buried her face in his shoulder and felt his artificial hand clenching her hair tightly. Sharp points of pain emerged along her body from his grip, especially her ribs, but she didn't care. The swell of joy in her chest was overwhelming.
"Finally I can stop worrying about you," she commed him.
"I'm sure I can still find ways," he replied, chuckling.
He gradually loosened his grip on her and she drew back, her eyes looking behind him as dozens of people began filing in from the helipad out back.
"You did great, Freya. If you hadn't gotten those VTOLs mobilized, a lot of people might not have survived. And I'm sure David will be happy to have the good press that Sarif Industries was one of the first to respond to the crisis. He'll be needing all he can get, after this."
"Thanks, Adam, how…" she started to ask him something, but caught a glimpse of the scientists leaving the cafeteria, including Dr. Reed. She was walking with David Sarif, apparently deep in conversation, but Freya did catch her eyes pausing for a moment on her and Jensen.
"You aren't hurt, right? Not even a scratch when all hell broke loose?" asked Jensen, his eyes lingering on the blood stains on her clothing and hands.
"I'm fine. What happened with Dr. Reed and the others? Are they all okay?" asked Freya.
"I don't suppose you were in on my feed when I found her?" he asked.
"No, I was trying to track what was happening at Panchaea, and then the signal…"
"I don't want to talk about it yet. Another time, days from now. Suffice it to say that if she continues to be employed by Sarif industries, I don't think I'll be able to stay," he said coldly.
Freya nodded. "Adam, there's something else I have to show you," she said, curling her hands around the bare muscle bundles of his upper arm and leading him up the stairs. As they rounded the steps, she pulled him into the Tech Lab and directed him to the television. Eliza was on repeat, giving the same message on a loop. The message that blamed Darrow, Tai Yong Medical, and Zhao for the entire debacle.
"That's not the message I told Eliza to release," said Jenson, frowning.
"I think it's the Illuminati. They must have intercepted the message and are using Zhao as a scapegoat."
"It's certainly convenient, and ties up loose ends…" he growled.
They both paused as a message from Sarif came simultaneously over their comms.
"Guys, meeting, ASAP in my office."
Jensen and Freya nodded and headed up in the elevators. As they looked out at the city, they saw far more plumes of smoke and flashing police lights than were caused in the riots. At least it's passed, for now. Jensen put his hand on her shoulder reassuringly and held her close against him. The doors slid open and they proceeded forward. Athene Marghoulis was sitting at her desk, attempting to look composed despite the bruises and cuts on her face and arms. Clearly she had suffered from Darrow's signal, but she must have been contained up on his penthouse floor where she didn't pose a threat to anyone except herself. As they approached, she turned her head a little away from them to keep her more prominent injuries out of view, and waved them through.
Standing around Sarif's desk were Malik, Megan, and the other three scientists Koss, Colvin, and Faherty. Pritchard and Jensen joined the semicircle and Sarif turned first to Jensen.
"I'm disappointed, Adam. I really thought you'd go with my Humanity Front idea. This way…is so much messier. However, I think spinning it so Zhao takes the blame will work out in our favor – it'll cripple her company, and perhaps they'll focus on the lax regulations in China and not how we do things here in the US," he started.
Sarif turned to Freya, "And Pritchard, well done with the emergency response. Eliza's already talking about it. If there was anything any of us could have done to make us look good after this disaster, that was it."
She smiled at the praise, which she rarely heard from Sarif. Finally he turned to Dr. Reed, "Now Megan, it's great to have you back, and we'll debrief in private about what happened over the last 6 months, but I think we can all agree that you will want to stay out of the media spotlight. They're focusing on Zhao right now but she's dead. Soon people are going to want a flesh and blood person to blame and they're going to be looking at you and Darrow."
"What do you suggest, David? That I go hide in a hole somewhere?" she asked, upset. "I've been confined for the last 6 months, suffering all by myself!"
Jensen shot her an angry look and clenched his fists, having to consciously suppress his anger. He could still picture how she looked when he first walked into her 'confinement.'
"Well, Megan, I don't know if you remember meeting my associate Bob Page, of Page Industries? He was at the last International Biogenetics conference in Sydney. You were at that, right? He's been watching your career very closely and has told me numerous times that he wants you on his team, if I could ever afford to lend you to him."
"I remember him. He certainly has a lot of resources and connections. But…David, are you firing me?" she asked.
"No, Megan, of course not! After all, you developed the bio chip software while employed by Sarif Industries, so that's our intellectual property. I thought, and I'm just throwing it out there, you don't need to say yes now, that perhaps you could remain employed by us but work for Page as a contractor. You could go to one of his facilities that's more out of the way and just lie low."
"I'll need to think about it. Send me Page's information and after I talk to him, I'll let you know …" she said softly, but obviously intrigued.
After a lengthy discussion about how best to proceed, and the best story for everyone to have prepared when confronted by reporters, Sarif dismissed everyone except Megan. The rest of them returned to their usually assigned tasks, hoping it would inject a bit of normalcy after what had happened. Pritchard spent the rest of the day repairing computers and electronic gear that had been damaged during the confusion. Jensen meanwhile was coordinating a building sweep to identify individuals who were trapped or injured, and otherwise unable to obtain help.
By the end of the day, there was an eerie state of calm throughout the city. Everyone was so shaken by the events, and absorbing the information from Eliza, that they avoided others and didn't start any petty fights. Like in nearly all indiscriminate attacks on a people, many were banding together to support one another. After all, nearly everyone had a friend or family member who was affected by the attack. Among those without augments, there was a newfound sense of empathy for augmented people to go along with their previous fear; and those with augments were struggling with feelings of vulnerability that came with augmentation.
When evening came around, Freya was resting her head on her desk, exhausted. Robotically, she stood, grabbed her Sarif messenger bag, and locked up the Tech Lab. The apartments weren't too far if she used the main streets, so she elected to walk home. Malik's "shuttle service" was closed for the evening, anyway. She'd been flying for almost 24hours straight and was in no shape to do anything but sleep. As Pritchard headed down the streets, there were still traces of violence on every corner. Papers here and there with blood smears would flap by in the wind. Several crashed cars were left in the streets, no one coming to claim them. In the gutter, outside Chiron, Freya even spied a severed mechanical thumb – silver and sparking with residual battery life, wires sticking out of the base where it was forcibly removed from some unfortunate person's hand.
On her way inside, she stopped at the front desk and saw their stern faced manager Sherri Horst talking with someone on the phone. Sherri was staunchly anti-augmentation and as such tended to treat all the Sarif employees who lived there as second class citizens. Pritchard was tempted to stop and ask her about Jensen's replacement mirror, but figured it would be a waste of time. It was unlikely she'd respond any better to her than she did to Jensen.
When Freya stepped into the apartment, she hung up her jacket and set her bag in the kitchen as was her routine. Having been up and about on her feet all day, she headed for her brown leather armchair in the far right corner of the room. On her way she stepped over the numerous cables and cords still strewn about the floor, lazily attempting to nudge a few of the more prominent loops aside. No sooner had she sat down, than she heard three firm knocks at the door. Sighing, she pushed herself up with her arms and went to answer it.
Upon opening the door, she found herself facing Adam, his shades retracted and his intense brown eyes quickly finding hers. She should have known it would be him, but Freya was still struck speechless by his presence outside her apartment. Without a word, Adam tilted her chin towards him with his left hand and brought her lips to his. The suddenness took her breath away and she felt a brief sense of panic, but found herself already melting in his arms. All her fears and worries when he was off on missions were finally finding their release. Lips still locked on hers, he pushed her back into the apartment, closing the door behind him. She was still trying to catch her breath and when she let out a gasp, she felt his tongue tease past her lips.
She brought her hands up along his chest until they were securely wrapped around his neck, steadying herself. Feeling up along his jawline, she ran her fingers through his soft brown hair, twisting gently. His hands dropped around her and pressed against her back, holding her firmly against his body. One of his hands found its way beneath her shirt and caressed along the bare skin of her waist, making her tremble in pleasure deep to her core. As he pushed her back further into the room, her right foot got tangled in a loop of power cord and she felt herself get pulled down, bringing him unexpectedly forward onto the ground. With lightning reflexes, Adam held the two of them just above the floor when they fell, supporting her lower back so she floated just an inch above the carpet.
The fall made him pause only briefly, his eyes finding hers to look for any sign that she wanted him to stop. When he found nothing but her deep blue eyes gazing longingly up at him, he kissed her again, more tenderly this time. He gently edged her turtleneck higher, bringing it above her shoulders and tossing it aside. Carefully he explored her body with his hands, sensitive for any reaction against the pressure his prosthetics exerted on her soft flesh. As he trailed kisses along her collar and removed her bra, she pulled his shirt over his head and traced the angular line along his shoulders where the polymers met his skin. He was so warm she felt it emanating from every part of him – his chest, his arms, his neck. She easily slipped her loose cargo pants off and slid her naked thigh sensually along his torso, wanting to feel as much of his skin on hers as possible. As her need for him reached dizzying heights, she spread her legs invitingly, wishing he would close the distance. His fingers trailed along her belly, sending shivers deep into her pelvis, and slipped beneath her underwear to find her waiting opening. She jerked involuntarily and tightened her legs when she felt his fingers enter, warm and smooth.
"Adam," she gasped breathlessly.
"Shh, relax," he told her, his eyes meeting hers briefly, as if to say, trust me.
She nodded and focused on relaxing her hips again so he could move in deeper. As he stimulated her, it sent tantalizing waves of enjoyment through her whole body in ways she never knew. As he hit particularly pleasurable places she uttered short, involuntary cries, muffled by his lips. She happily surrendered herself to the sensations he was giving her, relishing his tongue in her mouth at the same time.
Her hand reached up to his buckle and started loosening it, struggling a little until he brought his other hand over to help. When his pants came down, undergarment and all, she could just barely see the delineation between his augmentation and the natural portions of his muscular mid-thigh. She traced her hand down to his groin to find him, relieved to feel that confirmation that he wanted her. As she caressed him, she felt him jerk slightly and catch his breath, clearly affected by her touch. She eased off slightly and he gripped the sides of her panties, pausing for a moment to see how long he could resist before finally sliding them off, leaving nothing to separate them.
In anticipation, she brought her arms around him behind him and held onto his shoulders as he lowered his hips to meet her. As he entered, she let out a soft moan and he caressed her face, kissing her sweetly, reassuringly. Whatever reservations she may have had, she couldn't help but give in to wanton desire and welcome him completely into her. When he was in all the way, she took a deep breath as he started to move, pleasure shooting through her body. She brought her hands up from his shoulders and gripped his strong, powerful upper arms along his biceps for support. His smell, his surprising gentleness, the feel of his body was saturating her senses. As she grew closer to orgasm and gripped him more tightly with her hands, he sped up the pace, bringing them to a simultaneous rush of ecstasy.
As her head swam in the aftermath, still holding his body against hers, she wondered for a fleeting moment whether his augments had helped him time his moves so perfectly. If that were the case she certainly wasn't about to complain. They rested there, still breathing hard, and he planted a long, final kiss on her lips. He smiled and gazed long into her. For the first time, she did not see a trace of pent up anger or regret in those eyes.
"Was that okay?" he asked softly.
She couldn't help but laugh nervously, still getting rid of pent up butterflies. "That was more than okay, Adam," she answered.
He kissed her again gently and pulled away, grabbing her clothing from around them and handing them to her as she went to clean up. Adam pulled his pants on and sat in the arm chair that Freya had been sitting in moments before he arrived. Her windows were half open, letting only a slight amount of light in to blend with the blue glow of several computer screens that she left perpetually on compiling data. The skyscrapers were still the same, with the same flashing electronic billboards, but somehow it felt different tonight. He smiled contentedly and watched her walk towards him from her bedroom.
"That's my chair, you know. I was sitting there before you so rudely interrupted my evening," she teased.
He quickly pulled her into his lap, her legs hanging over one of the arms of the chair. "Well, you clearly need a few more chairs. This is the only one I see in here."
"Oh, I have more," she said defensively, "they're just…buried at the moment."
He chuckled and sighed happily, watching her facial expressions. For months after the accident he never thought he could have this kind of happiness again. Yet here it was, sitting in front of him. For once he didn't feel like a victim of circumstance, of cruel fate's hand giving him a life he didn't ask for. He wasn't angry at the world for robbing him of the life he used to have. After months of misery he was finally moving forward instead of dwelling on the past.
"So, this is really happening, then?" she asked nervously, referring to the two of them.
"Sure, but we have to make it official," he said, putting on a serious face. She looked puzzled for a moment and he continued, "There's a great noodle place that is open really late. I haven't been there in ages, but I'm sure it'll be open even today – the guy who owns it is a stubborn Japanese man who never closes shop, rain or shine."
"That sounds fun," she grinned excitedly, "so it's a date?"
"It's a date," he confirmed, kissing her nose softly.