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Hope is a Small Thing

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Mako Mori is found after it is all over. She’s found, and she’s alive. Not well, and not whole, but alive.

Hermann, alone in his room while the rest of the surviving members of the PPDC are drinking themselves into justified and deserved oblivion after having once again saved the world, weeps. Not for those lost, not even for Newton Geiszler, but for Secretary General Mori. For the one gleaming, beautiful thing that has not been destroyed in all this. She has always been their hope.

He goes to visit her as soon as she is out of surgery, two days after she is found, and three days after the world nearly ends for the second time in Hermann’s lifetime. He has to bribe Dr. Zhang with imported German chocolate to see her, but Henrietta Zhang has been his physician for the last dozen years in their overlapping time at the Hong Kong Shatterdome, and he’s nearly sure he could have preserved his precious chocolate stash had he really minded.

“She’s still highly at-risk of infection, so full control procedures, if you please. Pentecost just left,” she says as she leads him through the medical wing towards the private rooms in the south bank. It’s mostly intact in this part of the Dome; the attack tore through the Dome like paper and left the Jaeger hanger and the command center devastated, but the inner bowels of the facility were left only shaken, not ravaged and cut open.

They walk past dozens of bodies wrapped up in burn gauze from the fires throughout the Dome that had taken almost a day to fully put out. Some people are sedated, others moan and whimper. The Secretary General is the highest ranking official in the Shatterdome left alive, and she merits her own room, however stark and dehumanizing it may be, and the rest of these poor souls must suffer without that shred of privacy. Hermann lowers his eyes as he recognizes a J-Tech engineer. She’s missing her left arm from the shoulder down, and her left foot. She must have been working under one when the attack happened.

He can’t remember her name, and that bothers him in a way he can’t quite articulate, but he doesn’t have time to analyze the feeling because Dr. Zhang is motioning him on, and he is compelled to follow.

The private room they enter is white-painted and brightly lit from above with the horrendous fluorescent lights that give him migraines. Underneath the light lays the Secretary General, and his first thought upon seeing her is she looks small.

She is small. Smaller. Both her legs have been amputated at the knees.

Machinery beeps around her, and she is still medically comatose while her body recovers. A chair is pulled away from the wall at an angle near her head, and Hermann easily imagines Jake Pentecost leaning next to his sister for days.

But under it all, under the terrible lights and the white blanket, and the tubing taped to her face and mouth and nose, she looks like Mako Mori, like the little girl Hermann recalls so vividly.

And he weeps.

Dr. Zhang has left them alone and Hermann sinks gratefully into the Pentecost’s chair. He’s still gripping his cane. It seems impolite to touch her when she can’t pull away, so he doesn’t reach out to take her hand. He simply sits with her, and after awhile, he begins to talk.

“I’m sure Ranger Pentecost has told you all about what’s happened, in between his no doubt exuberant excitement over your miraculous survival.” Much like the Secretary General, Hermann has to work very hard to remember to think of Ranger Pentecost as a man of his own right, and not as the young boy who fluttered around them in the Shatterdome in his youth. It’s easier with Mako. She long ago abandoned the trappings of youth.

“And it is miraculous. And so very good. We need you, we truly do. There are so few of us left. Not just here in the Shatterdome after our losses, but those of us who remember how it was the last time.”

He doesn’t know what to say.

“They’re going to grow complacent and overconfident again, like we did before. Like I did before. You were always the strongest of us, Ms. Mori. Much stronger than I, and certainly strong than...”

He trails off, because he has come to the point he was hoping to avoid so much faster than he anticipated.

“I’m sure Ranger Pentecost told you about that , too.”

He touches the spots on his neck that have blossomed over the last few days into a purpling green where Newton Geiszler, and the beings possessing him, very nearly choked the life out of him.

“He’s still in the Shatterdome, though that is hardly common knowledge. I believe they’re hoping that people will assume he died in the attack like so many others; it will be much easier for them that way, and probably kinder to Dr. Geiszler’s legacy. Rangers Pentecost and Lambert have some hair-brained idea about attacking the Anteverse proactively, and they are trying to question him, as if he were just some enemy combatant and not a vessel for a thousand untold alien creatures from another dimension.”

He clears his throat.

“I’m told he is in acceptable health. I haven’t been to see him myself, not yet.”

The Secretary General, of course, simply breathes in and out. She’s not on a ventilator, which he knows to be a deeply positive sign. There is a nasal cannula taped gently to her face, and the adhesive is peeling on one side. It flutters a little bit with every exhale.

Time, he thinks abstractly. He is watching the embodiment of time. He counts the flutters of the tape, which in turn are counting the very much alive Mako Mori’s breath. Which, in turn, is counting them all towards the unknowable future, and away, breath by breath, from the past.

“He’s still in there,” he says very quietly, and he knows that he is no longer speaking to Mako, but he thinks the Secretary General would not mind. “He’s been in there for ten years. I left him to them for ten years.”

There’s a knock at the door, and half a heartbeat later Dr. Zhang enters again. “Time’s up.”

He nods, and when he stands he feels his whole body creak, one joint at a time. It’s middle age, as unpleasant a diagnosis as it is, and over the last four days he has eaten too little, slept too little, and worried far, far too much, and his body is not hesitating to tell him.  

“Yes, it certainly is. Thank you, Dr. Zhang.”

She smiles, and he can see the purple shadows under her eyes, too. They’ve all been pulling triple shifts, and her work is only just beginning. As is his.

“I’ll see myself out,” he says, and walks carefully, slowly, towards the door.

He has a bomb to build, after all. And one Newton Geiszler to visit.