Chapter 165 - Rebuilding
"Rebuild this city? Haven?' said the ex-policeman. He rubbed his ear. "I think it might be time for a hearing aid. Everyone else heard him, right? He wants to build up Haven again?"
'Yeah, that's what he said," said the younger policeman.
'You have my thanks for saving us and the city,' said the retired policeman. "But up there, the reality is that there is no more city. No more Haven."
"There's still enough of it for me to work with," said Aldrich. 'You might see nothing but waterlogged rubble and broken streets, but I still see Haven. A place you all can still call home if you're willing to stay here and help me with it."
Silence descended upon the crowd as they looked at each other. Aldrich had just issued a call to action, asking those willing to stay and help rebuild if they wanted. But even if most of the people here had called Haven home for most of their lives, the image of the city above an desolate and destroyed was still seared into their minds.
And that image made them hesitant. Aldrich had an idea of what they were thinking. They probably thought that as individuals, especially with their injuries, what could they possibly do to help in rebuilding an entire city? It was delusional.
"I can help," said one of the injured policemen. She sat with her back against a steely grey wall as she chewed on a radon bar. "My
power's bumed out, but once it comes back online, I can haul ass and carry a few bricks here and them. ICs not like I have the credits to really make a move, either."
"We can get reassigned to a different department in another city," interjected another policeman. "I mean, are you seriously considering this? Building up a whole city brick by brick?"
"Lucky you," responded a young teenager lacking an arm. He sat cross legged on the ground with a dejected stare aimed down at a necklace in his hand. 'You get to run from all this and leave it behind. 'Reassigned'. What a nice word.
Wish that meant anything to me. My parents are dead. My house is gone. I have nothing." He balled his hand over the necklace in a tight fist. "Nothing but this wreck of a place that I used to call a home. Either I try to build it back up, or I die in the gutters of some city I don't even know."
"Reassigned my ass. They'll only reassign the useful ones. I sure as hell can't afford the cybernefics to get new legs, and without that, I'll be cut from the fume," said another injured policeman, this one talking out loud while lying down from a stretcher. Bloody bandages were wrapped around two stumps that once held his legs. "And let's be real, most of you that are fine are still lazy bums that relied on the walls and heroes to fight the variants back and the villains to regulate their own crime.
You aren't anything special. Higher tier cities aren't going to take low level cops like you to feed on the taxpayer dime."
Despite his horrific injuries, the policeman looked at his stump legs and smiled. "So I'm down to help build Haven again. Though, gotta say, I'll need a bit of a leg up to be really useful."
A couple of his friends nearby him smiled and shook their heads at the bad pm, but they agreed. 'We grew up here, and we'd like to stay
He stared at Aldrich. "I know you have power, but nobody knows you, sir. Where are your funds? Your support? Don't be mistaken, I'd like for you to build this place up, I really would, but I just want to know how."
"Call it a leap of faith," said Aldrich.
"A leap of faith "The older man sighed. 'When I was younger, I was a pretty big gambler. Wife made a racket about it every weekend when she was still alive, bless her heart. But I realized that gambling almost never pays off."
'You're right, this is a gamble," said Aldrich. "But let me minimize the risk for you all. For at least two weeks, the government along with the Panopilcon will keep this city supplied while they search for potential survivors, cleanup corpses, assess damages, and start the relocation process for confirmed survivors.
During that time, I'm going to negotiate to get the support I need to rebuild this city. If I can't, then you all can go on living your lives as if I had never existed. I won't ask you all to stay beyond your means or out of the bounds of reason. If you want to leave, you can leave anytime you want.
But most of you know that once you get relocated, your life will be over. Very few of you will be able to survive in a new city with your injuries, paying for treatments and cybernetics while trying to find work. You'll get desperate and want loans, but no bank will lend to people with no prospects like you.
You'll turn to criminals, and at that point, you might as well sign your lives away.
But that's for those of you that are lucky. Most likely, the vast majority of you will waste away in the slums once whatever pittance you get from the government wastes away in a month or two."
The crowd grew silent as they looked at each other, Imowing deep down that Aldrich was right. They might have survived, but their lives as they knew it were over.
"In summary, most of you are in a position where you have to bet all in," said Aldrich. "Because otherwise, you have nothing. So go all in on me. Trust in your hand, in me, to payoff."
Aldrich's intentions sounded noble, and they were, but his words had layers to them. He showed himself now as someone dedicated to
rebuilding Haven, the city that most of the people here had called home for most of their lives, and like that, he would gain their trust.
Because if Aldrich was going to be a Sentinel, he needed both territory and people. Without a good sum of people to fiercely support him, his case for becoming a Sentinel became weaker. Granted, Aldrich did not think these people were absolutely necessary for his case, but any amount of help mattered.
In his mind, Aldrich did not particularly care whether these people were actually of any real use or not in rebuilding the city. All he wanted for them to do was think about staying because the more people stayed, the greater number of voices them would be to support Aldrich.
Plus, Aldrich could help them out as well in retum. It was a low risk deal where everyone won out with in the end if things paid off.
The older policeman shook his head and smiled. 'You got a way with words, Ell tell you that. Had you been my casino buddy back in the day, I'd probably never have gotten out I'll bet on you."
"Same here. Don't have anything else going for me." "All in over here as well."
Aldrich heard and saw in facial expressions that most of the crowd agreed. The only ones that did not were those that probably felt it safer to move to another city because they probably had the means to. Most of the injured heroes there fell into this category because the AA gave them far more privileges in moving out and finding new work.
Aldrich did not care about them. If they wanted to leave, then they could. They became completely insignificant in his eyes once they decided to leave, for they had no real use for him.
As for the others that did express intent to stay-
Aldrich sat down comfortably, drawing everyone's attention back to him.
"Didn't expect you of all people to get tired," said the older policeman with a smile. "But I bet you've got real important things to do than sitting down here with us."
"Not really," said Aldrich. "I want to talk to all of you that want to stay. Get to know you and your names and your stories, because if things work out, well all be working together."
Like that Aldrich spent the next near hour talking with the people there, getting to know them as promised. He did not know exactly how to comfort them when they talked to him about their losses and their fears for a very uncertain future, but he figured he would start to try.
Aldrich had never been a particularly empathetic person and becoming a Lich had dampened his empathy even more.
Seismic helped him, though, sitting beside Aldrich and taking over when conversations got too sentimental for Aldrich to know how to navigate well. Despite Seismic's craggy exterior, he still knew how to connect with people and guide them through their losses even with minimal words.
One thing that Aldrich noted was that it was not really the words themselves that mattered as much. His generic condolences of Tm sorry for your lo.' and 'MI get better' and so on were not that different from what Seismic said.
It was in the way that Seismic said things that made a difference. Ms words felt closer, more heartfelt. Aldrich did not know yet how to talk like that, but he would ask Seismic later how it was done.
Once around forty minutes passed, the talks were cut short as a firm voice projected throughout speakers within the bunker.
"Seismic, Vigilante, I need to ask both of you exit the shelter," said the voice. "The doors will open in five seconds, and I want both of you to come up here peacefully....