The soft sound of the suite door closing seems to echo in the empty room after Jordan’s departure. For several long moments, Lexi stands in the living area of the suite, unmoving and numb, her limbs heavy and cumbersome as if she had spent hours swimming. And in a way, she supposes, she had been swimming – but she had been way over her head without ever even knowing she was in the water. Six months of mounting frustration and concern. One day of utter chaos and destruction. Nothing would ever be the same.

Time and memory fade in and out during the evacuation from Ruk and the moments afterward, moments of clarity amongst the blur of emotion, coming in fits and starts like a glitching vid file:  Staring at the faces of what remained of her people, trying to comfort the inconsolable. Glancing at Jordan beside her as their ride too them to the hotel, so grateful for her presence. Staring at her reflection, seeing the evidence of the skirmishes written in the bruises and scrapes. Breaking down in the shower, crying and screaming for what seemed like (and might have actually been) hours, the hot water rushing over her. Dressing on automatic in a set of loungewear provided by SVT, another reminder of things lost.

Lexi comes back to full clarity curled up in one of the oversized chairs in her suite, staring into a mug of tea she didn’t remember preparing but clearly did. The scent of tea is soothing, reminding her of better days spent with her Nana as a child. Her brother was always off investigating, exploring, building- always caught up in the next new thing. Her Nana was like her though, calmer and more introspective; she taught her how to meditate as a way of reflecting on the past and processing the stress of the day. Her family had always been a source of strength and wisdom for her: from her Nana she learned the art of patience; from her mother a passion for healing and caring for others; from her dad a flawless poker face; and from her brother… from her baby brother, persistence. All of them now gone.

Her brother. London’s debrief had been brutal in its stark honesty, the depravity of her brother’s madness on full display. That man, that Cornelius was nothing more than an obsessional monster, a mad scientist that would have fit in seamlessly into the most terrifying of horror movies. Lexi wanted to deny that was her brother, to defend her family and their legacy, but she knew on an instinctual, visceral, soul-deep level that everything London showed them was the truth; she recognized his mannerisms, his body language, his arrogance – but how did her baby brother become that?  How long has she been in denial of his true nature?

Lexi suddenly recalls the small still voice she heard after her confrontation with him in the lobby – was it just this morning? The comforting presence had told her that Cornelius would’ve gone down this path no matter what, that this monstrous person was who he always was and that she had been blind to not see it. At the time it felt like an absolution of sorts, an alleviation of guilt. Lexi doubts that she will ever stop wondering if she could’ve stopped him if she had just seen the depths of his change, but she also remembers something her father had told her once: “Feelings are tricky animals, my love. They can be hard to ignore, but they aren’t always true. Strive to know yourself deeply enough to determine the difference.” Lexi takes that advice, feeling a deep need to exert control over this one small aspect of her life, when control of everything else is so far out of reach. She adjusts herself in the chair, closes her eyes and settles into meditation.

Her grief is front and center in her mind, fresh and raw and powerful. Everything that she had worked so hard to build and improve, destroyed. Cornelius is lost to her, whether from a gunshot or to his insanity, and with him the last of her family. Her beautiful hospital, city, WORLD – nothing but ashes and dust and rubble. Her guards, hand selected by Jordan and herself, had become close over the recent months as she feared the repercussions of what Cornelius was doing and worked with them day in and day out to ferret out his schemes. Of her team only Jordan and Jones remain and that is heartbreaking. Lexi is sure she will never be able to erase the image of taking down Heinrich, watching Jordan double tap him in the head; or the feel of Jorge’s blood and brains in her hair after Dante saved her life.  But even as she grieves, she knows that loss is part of the natural order of things despite all the advancements in medicine and technology. Grieving is to be expected.

Waves of guilt hit her next and while it’s not entirely out of place either, the sheer depth and intensity of the guilt is overwhelming. It is more than just the fact that she survived when so many others didn’t. More than not being able to figure out what Cornelius was up to and stopping him before disaster struck. No, the visions that she saw during her struggle in the hospital sparked something deep in her soul that she hasn’t been able to shake. A choice that was made which was intended to help, instead backfired or failed.  “You will not imprison us again.” Was that the pivotal moment, the imprisonment, or was it something else? Somehow, somewhen, she fucked up and Lexi is now starting to recognize that the reverberations of that error have instilled a soul deep need to atone for it, a drive to fix and heal and restore. Lexi’s not sure that what was broken in the past can be fixed, but she’s slowly gathering a new family of sorts around her, and she’ll defend them at all costs.

A strong urge to protect wells up in her and with it, the return of the deep-seated anger; it burns inside her, as hot and as bright as the fires of Ruk, so strongly it almost breaks her out of her meditation. She breathes, slow and deep, for several minutes. And then several minutes more. And a few more until the fury is carefully banked and she can pick apart the source. She is annoyed and frustrated at herself for missing the signs, for not doing more to uncover Cornelius’ plan, for not stopping him sooner. Cornelius bears a great deal of her ire as well but even now Lexi wonders how much of this was solely of his own making. Lexi is under no illusions now that he wholeheartedly participated in the plans leading to planetary destruction; that the intended planet was Earth and not Ruk does not lessen his culpability or her outrage in the least. His willful, even gleeful torture and murder of innocents to further his goals… the rumors and speculations made fact in vivid 3-D …  she wonders if maybe forgiveness and redemption will come for him in his next life, even as she hopes that her own redemption may happen in this one.

But no, the present focus of her incandescent rage is on a certain EMC general and his Angel friend. Cornelius may have always been destined to walk this path, but those two fuckers certainly exacerbated and accelerated it because before that meeting her brother had never betrayed her, had never crossed that ethical line in his experiments. Whatever was said or done in secret, in the shadows, altered the trajectory of both their lives. Lexi can’t explain or begin to express what triggered such a snap judgement of the man, but she had felt it in her gut that this man was an Enemy. Everything she’s learned about EMC since that moment has only intensified and reinforced her instant, visceral dislike for the man and his smug little smirk. And weren’t Angels supposed to be the benevolent type? There was nothing warm or kind in their gaze as they walked past her.

Lexi is not accustomed to letting her emotions rule her decisions, but this past day has been nothing but adrenaline and impulse and she can feel herself starting to crash. She doubts sleep will come easily, if at all, but in any event the bed would be more comfortable. In the morning she will speak with SVT and find out what path her new life will take now. Nothing will ever be the same – but tomorrow, she promises herself, is a new day.
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