Chapter 368 Healing Procedure
Tuesday, November 22nd, 5 days before the Blackwater Attack
"I'd like to extend my appreciation for you helping with this excavation," said Aldrich. He stood in front of his control tower, watching as huge, construction-orange colored vehicles ripped apart all the concrete and asphalt, baring a large semi-circle of fresh dirt.
The sound of enormous mech claws and drills cracking apart and pulling up street material echoed loudly through the air, the cacophony of construction accompanied by rising clouds of debris and dust.
The uncovered dirt merged with Central Haven Park up ahead.
'I must say, there are many things in this new realm that amaze me, but this…this is rather unpleasant,' said Valera telepathically, grimacing as her pointed ears twitched at the harsh noises. She stood at guard beside Aldrich, though she was not in her armor, just a casual shirt and jeans combo. 'It is like dwarven mining. But a thousand times worse. And I already hated the din of dwarven golems.'
'I figured you wouldn't like this, but just bear with me for a bit,' said Aldrich. 'It'll be bad manners if I wasn't on-site.'
"It's a good thing you got a park up ahead. Means we got less sewage and pipelines to bust through." Bart, CEO of Hammerhead Industries, spoke to Aldrich through a holographic screen projected by a drone buzzing above his head.
"The surrounding area is uninhabited, so feel free to uproot at will," said Aldrich. He nodded, pleased at this development. The excavation was for the eventual planting of the Arsellis Treeseed which, soon, Arcadia would nurture into full growth.
He wanted to do this soon, if possible. The Arsellis Treeseed, once nurtured, would provide a city-wide barrier that could prevent demonic possession or any form of non-physical intrusion. The benefits to this were glaringly obvious considering Aldrich had made an enemy of an Archdemon in the form of Ikon.
This meant that Aldrich had to keep Arcadia here to grow the seed, preventing her from aiding with the Blackwater attack. On top of that, Okeanos had to stay here too so that he could power the city.
Two top tier heavy hitters gone.
That did leave a bad taste in Aldrich's mouth, but he had some ways to compensate. The fourth trial quest, in particular, would prove to be very useful…
"I'll relay it to the supervisor on site there." Bart's eyes turned hopeful, his jaws opening slightly to reveal his thick, bright pink gums and the many rows of teeth arming them. "About my daughter…"
Bart's voice trailed off, unsure how to proceed.
"It's possible," said Aldrich.
Bart sighed, closing his eyes, deeply relieved. He adjusted his giant suit and tie to maintain professionalism.
"Thanks," said Bart.
Aldrich had gotten Bart's file on his daughter's condition on Monday night, and he had thoroughly reviewed it with Fler'Gan and Eric, Blackwater's medic.
Hammerhead's daughter, Filia, as she was called, inherited some portion of her father's mutant genes. Her mother, however, had not been a mutant at all, and the resulting birth had been difficult, as was most often the case with mutant and non mutant couplings.
At birth, Filia seemed almost completely human and healthy. She had a few rough patches of denticle skin here and there, but that was it. Her childhood development was also fairly normal, roughly comparable to that of a normal human female.
That was until she hit ten years old.
When she hit puberty and her Alter Organ bloomed, becoming more active in producing Alter Cells, the problems showed up.
She manifested more shark-like traits from her father.
Sharp teeth, electro-sensitive receptors, more rough, armor-like shark skin, additional muscle mass, a tail, fins - but these were not the issue. In fact, they were strictly benefits, all things considered.
The issue were the gills.
When Filia manifested gills, her circulatory system underwent a complete collapse as her body was unable to reconcile two conflicting breathing systems together. This rendered her unable to process oxygen properly anymore.
Her lungs failed, no longer capable of taking in oxygen from the air, and her gills did not form properly, failing to take oxygen from water.
This left her completely on life support, hooked up on a constant, complicated oxygen supply.
It got worse from there.
An accident when she was fifteen, likely a targeted attack, had temporarily disabled her oxygen support system, and though it was hastily restored within minutes, the damage had been done. The brain was a fragile thing. Just a few minutes without oxygen could do untold amounts of harm to it.
That left her in a permanent coma, unable to move at all. She was essentially a statue, incapable of responding to anyone or anything.
Brain scans did show activity, though, and that was what Bart banked on for the past three years, hoping and waiting for something to cure her.
"I have to warn you again," said Aldrich. "You do understand what my healing procedure entails, correct?"
Bart nodded. "I do. No matter what, it's better than how she is now. It's a terrible thing for a parent to say, but more than a few times, I thought it would've been kinder to her to have cut her life support off.
Trapped in that body, in that prison of permanent sleep, she must have gone through so many hells. But I made her stay in it, all to hope that one day I'd find a way to wake her up.
Damn it…" A tear welled up in Bart's wide, ever open shark eye. "I just hope if she wakes up, she'll forgive me. Understand me."
"The brain scans aren't conclusive as to whether she was conscious or not," said Aldrich. "It's entirely possible she'll wake up like it was just a dream. Something that passed in an instant."
"I hope to god that's true," said Bart. He shook his head. "I'm getting emotional again. Ain't right for me to keep talking like this."
"We can hash the details out with our technos," said Aldrich. "You know my price. And I know how much you value your daughter. Am I right to say that this is a fair result for both of us?"
What Aldrich asked for was for Hammerhead Industries to eventually become an official partner for Haven. Before the official partnership, Hammerhead Industries would essentially do whatever Aldrich wanted it to.
Within reason, of course. 60% of construction costs would be shouldered by Hammerhead itself as an investment. The remaining 40% would be subsidized by credit backed by Aarav's name.
Bart would greenlight several additional construction projects. At the moment, without an official partnership, all he could do was restore basic amenities like a functional sewage system, plumbing, an electric grid, net connectivity, and so on.
But afterwards, Bart had promised thorough construction across the entirety of the city, repairing most of the damage done to the city from the Locus Raids.
The official partnership, however, could not happen immediately.
Not yet, the U.S. government still had too much leverage to tank Hammerhead Industries if they got a whiff of the company being too close with Haven, but after, when Aldrich got more established to minimize the risk, things would change.
That would happen after Aldrich got the Scrapheart.
And after Aarav Singh killed his father and took over Sheshanaga.
Coincidentally, both of those missions would take place on the exact same day.
Once Aldrich had the Scrapheart, he would be a global military power without question. Once Aarav had Sheshanaga, Aldrich could have an official Fortune Company backing him. It would be an alliance of tremendous influence that no single country, not even the U.S., could challenge.
"The price is mighty steep. But it's worth it," said Bart. "Though I want you to come to me for the procedure. I don't want to risk sending Filia out anywhere."
"I understand. Invite Seismic over for dinner tonight. I'll join in." Aldrich nodded and double tapped the screen, closing it.
"Can we leave now?" Valera complained, her ears still twitching. "If we do have our date, I truly do not wish it to be anywhere near these building golems."
"Noted," said Aldrich. He looked up at the sky. Where his next meeting was. "I'd like you to armor up for now, Valera."
"Understood, master." Valera's tone instantly grew serious as she clenched her fists, her hound armor materializing around her in a shower of black and red sparks.
Aldrich then pressed at the ear of his helm, activating his communicator. "Channel: Dracul."
After a small wait of static noise, Dracul connected on the other end.
"What is it?" said Dracul.
"I know you're more of a night worker, but I wanted to know if you're up to provide some insurance," said Aldrich. "Like last time."
"Ah. The AA getting in the way again? As they usually do?" said Dracul.
"Not in the way. But I don't want to take risks," said Aldrich.
"I will be there," said Dracul.