"One cloud is enough to eclipse all the sun."
"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Richard Hemelshot worked quickly. The morning after her appointment as Director of XSWAT, Jamadigni Renuka found she'd been moved into Alice Cadbury's old office, and Hemelshot had relocated to somewhere else. And now she found herself sitting in Cadbury's old chair, staring out the window.
XSWAT headquarters was a tower well over a hundred stories tall. The Director's office was set near the top, facing south. One could see a huge swath of Angeles from here, a view Jamadigni knew wasn't mere coincidence. And there, just over to one side, was Omega Sector.
It had rained off and on since the battle at Rutger Bridge, in part because Jamadigni had asked it to. The rain had washed the ash and smoke out of the air, had washed the decaying masses of slain Entities away, had helped dampen and put out the fires. But even now, smoke still smoldered from the arc of destruction Gurzorath and his horde had left. There were fires in there that would burn for weeks yet, until Angelus's recovery forces could finally get to them.
It was slow going. The Entities had destroyed everything in their path. Buildings, vehicles, streets... everything. They had also killed everyone they could find. The estimated death toll was over 800,000 people. The number of wounded was said to be 1.6 million. The number of insane or otherwise psychologically traumatized? Unknown.
The numbers were such that it was impossible to quantify them. She could see them listed on a report, but it didn't seem real. Sure, she'd seen the Enochian hospital where they'd taken Carpenter, seen it fill up with the injured and dying, had seen the corpses at the bridge, but the numbers were still inconceivable. It was as Stalin said, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."
Sitting there in Cadbury's chair, kicking her feet (which was a tad embarrassing, Cadbury had easily been six inches taller than her, and both the chair and desk were sized to match), Jamadigni thought about that one death. Alice Cadbury had been the leader of XSWAT for twenty years, developing it from its infancy into a force 5,000 strong. How was she supposed to replace that? Cadbury may have named her as successor, but Hemelshot was right, she wasn't an administrator. She'd never led anyone anywhere. Not in the field, not in the boardroom, not anywhere. She'd never really commanded anyone, unless spirits counted, and even then it wasn't so much as commanding as it was asking.
She thought about that.
Alice Cadbury had millennia of experience, and for the most part knew what she wanted and how to get it. Jamadigni was only twenty four years old. She'd served with the 9th Squad and XSWAT for less than a year. She was a figurehead. A symbol.
She thought about that, before shaking her head and smiling.
Nathan Carpenter was wiser than anyone ever gave him credit for, even after all they had been through. She had spoken time and again on the power of folklore and myth, and here she was, seeing it develop around her. Even before the battle at the bridge, the 9th Squad had begun to achieve near mythical status, even among people as hardened to the strange and unusual as the officers of XSWAT. And now? There was a legend growing: of how the officers of the 9th Squad had rallied the forces of Angelus—the disbanded officers of XSWAT, members of the regular police, the Angelus Volunteer Defense Forces, and even a few people from Sentinel Watch, Lace and Steel, and elsewhere—and had made a desperate stand at the Rutger Bridge. People spoke of Nathan Carpenter's flashing sword, of Richard Hemelshot's unwillingness to retreat, of Malachi Brogan tearing apart Entities with his bare hands, of Yiska Karouk's esper "army," of Tyger holding the bridge all on his own—if just for a few moments.
As for herself... she was halfway to being a legend as well. People still spoke about the Digital Angel, and would probably talk for years to come, with some declaring to have seen her summon it with their own eyes. Among the regular police forces, she could apparently do no wrong, all over something as simple as handing out food and drink when they needed it most. Then there were those who said she'd been the one to deliver the killing blow against Gurzorath... and a thousand other claims, each more outrageous then the last.
Little of it was true. Well, little of what people said was true. But that didn't matter. It never did. In time the myth would become greater than the man (or woman), and more important. And as for the truth? It wouldn't matter. It was what people believed that counted—and there was power in that.
And she needed to capitalize on that power. Not as a sorceress, but as a person. As Director. She was young yes, but she was also fairly pretty, a woman (and thus, by default a "mother" figure), and looked good in the dress uniform. She would become the face of the "new" XSWAT and therefore, the "new" Angelus. She would bring hope to those in need, she would serve as an inspiration to her officers, she would strive to be closer to those who worked the streets than Cadbury did (or could).
She would start by attending the memorial services for the fallen. XSWAT alone had lost nearly a thousand officers since Masada's invasion, and would loose still more rooting out the remaining Entities. The Angelus PD, while 50,000 strong, didn't have the equipment resources of XSWAT and had suffered accordingly. Not to mention the AVDF and the rest.
She didn't know a hundredth of these names, and even less of the citizens Gurzorath had killed, but it didn't matter. The dead, all of them, had been important to someone. They had been fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives, and husbands. They had been people, just like her, and someone needed to speak for them. Recognize their loss, and provide some, any, comfort.
She wasn't an administrator, not yet, but XSWAT still had plenty of those. No, she was XSWAT's heart, and if compassion didn't first come from the heart, where would it come from?
* * * * *
It is one thing to make a vow. It is another to live up to it.
Jamadigni Renuka has seen far more of death than most anyone would expect. She has seen horrors few can understand. She has served with distinction in XSWAT, and in that time has shed her blood in the defense of Angelus more times than she cares to admit. She is, by most anyone's estimate, "battle hardened."
Jamadigni Renuka begins to fear memorial services.
Perhaps "fear" is too strong a word, but after a while, the numbers which seemed so unimaginable become more and more real. Tens become hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands. She attends all she can, especially if the service is for a fallen officer, either XSWAT or Angelus police. She meets more people than she can count (or remember) and tries to say a few words to each. Something, anything, to offer a measure of comfort.
But she is only twenty four years old. She becomes numb, and her words start to sound as hollow as the ones the Councilor's utter at each service and every night on the newscasts. Carpenter had once said she had a will that shown like the sun, but even the brightest sun can be hidden by the darkest clouds.
But Jamadigni Renuka isn't living in isolation. She may be the Director of XSWAT, but unlike her predecessor she isn't totally alone. Her officers, and they are hers—and are more than willing to follow her into Hell (or in this case Omega) and back—watch her with concern. She breaks down crying one day, alone, in her office, and thinks no one notices.
The next day there's a small box sitting on her desk. Inside is a tiny black kitten, all fuzz and big eyes and sharp claws. Jamadigni names him Cadbury and gives him the run of the office. Her assistants smile, nod, and proceed to spoil Cadbury rotten. The cat ends up entered on the roll of officers (as a Corporal no less), and soon can be found patrolling the Director's floor, keeping a sharp eye out for dust motes, Entities, and the dangling tails of Canine and Feline clades.
And when Jamadigni starts to talk to the cat (and swears the cat talks back), the assistants smile and nod, and talk to Cadbury as well. And discover that sometimes Cadbury seems to listen. But then, this is the Director's cat after all. Any less and they'd feel slighted.
* * * * *
In time, the services end and Jamadigni can try and become the administrator Hemelshot felt she wasn't. She must now be the one making the decisions and setting policy. She thinks long on this, eventually realizing that in many ways XSWAT isn't much different than a guardian hantu. And one doesn't take from a hantu without giving something in return. If you ask something of the hantu (or any spirit for that matter), than you must repay the hantu's services. In XSWAT's case, she will give her ear. She will listen to what her officers have to say before making decisions. And she will start at the street, where she served, and ask those most affected by policy before enacting it.
She asks her officers to be honest, to tell her what they think, what they need, and what they want. In return, she repays them by acting on their words, by making decisions based on what will be best for those in the field, not what the politicians or the multinational conglomerates want. It surprises many to see the Director of XSWAT sitting down and speaking with even the most rawest of recruits, and many on the APD wonder at the sight of Paul Santorino having lunch with Director Renuka. She even visits Richard Hemelshot in prison, asking his advice and opinion on matters large and small. Unconventional yes, but the men and woman of both XSWAT and the APD respect her for it, for unlike some, she does seem to care about what they have to say and think, and takes both compliments and criticism equally.
Of course, not everyone likes, respects, or trusts the new Director. She is young, so very young, and in the eyes of some, "unproven," her service record notwithstanding. There are 5,000 officers in XSWAT, and ten times that in the regular police, and humanity being what it is, not all of them support her or her decisions. But they are a minority, and a quiet one at that. It is the politicians and company representatives who give her the most trouble. More than once she is bypassed, despite her uniform, dismissed as a mere "woman" by men in suits who make a beeline to the nearest male officer in uniform. She says nothing, keeps her peace, waits for the error to be corrected. The expression on most faces when she is pointed out as the Director is revenge enough.
Still, there are those who refuse to respect her and her rank. Even when she is pointed out as Director there are those who talk down to her, tell her she doesn't understand, or smile, wink, nod, and act as if she's simply there to look pretty and not be heard. She doesn't have Alice Cadbury's penetrating gaze of sheer force of presence, but she does have rank, a badge, and plenty of assistants more than willing to "help" such people. Not to mention a small black cat who simply enjoys getting into things he really shouldn't....
And there are more sinister forces arrayed against her. The Yakuza for one. Satori Hanzo is bound and determined to worm his way into every aspect of Angelus, both commercial and government. It is not long before he has people in his pocket, and he even makes a play for the Director of XSWAT. Not personally, of course—he's no fool—but through intermediaries. He is refused, but he expected as much, so he goes to work on those around the Director. He also decides to fight fire with fire (so to speak), and bring in mahotsukai of his own. Soon a war begins between XSWAT and the Yakuza. A war fought in the shadows and behind the scenes, in sewers and storerooms, in corporate offices and company lobbies. It is a mix of subterfuge and open combat, and proves to be as dangerous as any Entity battle.
The Director surprises almost everyone by joining the fighting herself. Not one to sit in her office, more than once she responds to calls for assistance personally, against any number of threats. She is one of, if not the, most powerful mages of the age, and doesn't wish to let her skills decay behind a desk. Entities, rogue espers, enchanted constructs, and Yakuza techno-wizards all face her at one time or another, and all find she is a force to be reckoned with.
While those in the city council chambers question her actions, her officers applaud them. She gains new respect in their eyes and further proves herself to be a worthy successor to Alice Cadbury.
* * * * *
The question of Alice Cadbury comes up one day while Jamadigni is sitting in her office. With Tyger's upcoming wedding to Marcie, the 9th Squad has finally acknowledged that the former Director is gone, and Jamadigni has replaced her (since she is to act as the mother of the groom). It is time to put her to rest, if only figuratively.
Jamadigni starts with the office, having long since placed most of Alice's personal effects in a simple sheet-plastic box. There isn't much, and some of it, such as several rather high-quality pens, Jamadigni has decided to keep. The rest she takes to Alice's Alpha Sector home. Jamadigni's plan is simple, as Alice Cadbury built XSWAT in life, she can still aid her beloved officers in death.
Alice's home is larger than any one woman would ever need, but nowhere as ostentatious as most Sector residents'. It is also sparsely furnished, as if Alice only pretended to live here. There's truth in that assessment, as the records show she was only off-duty roughly six hours a day, the rest of her time spent at HQ or working here and there throughout Angelus.
What little clothing there is Jamadigni donates to an XSWAT collection for officers (and their families) in need. There's more jewelry (Alice had an image to maintain, after all), and Jamadigni spends some time sorting through it. Not for herself, she's not much for such things (although she has a few pieces for formal occasions), no, she's looking for a fairly specific item—and eventually finds it. She then gives Tyger a diamond ring, and suggests he present that to Marcie as a wedding ring. Tyger, for his part, accepts it happily. What is left is then auctioned off, with the proceeds placed in a fund for XSWAT officers injured or killed in the line of duty.
Jamadigni then liquidates all of Alice Cadbury's financial assets, and finds there is quite a bit of it. Director of XSWAT pays well, and Alice spent little. But then, she was a 10,000 year old spirit taken human form, what did she really need? Jamadigni's not sure she ever slept (or needed to), was never ill, and probably only ate to be polite. The house, however, stays, as Jamadigni declares it to be the official residence of all future SWAT Directors, starting with herself.
While all of this is going on, Jamadigni seeks out each of the former members of the 9th Squad. She presents each with one of the paintings that hung outside of Alice's office. There's one for Richard Hemelshot (which goes to his family for now), Nathan Carpenter, Tyger, and Yiska Karouk. Her painting goes inside her office, while Graham Burton's is placed in the XSWAT library. She also presents Richard with Alice's Lucite-encased policeman's prayer and Malachi Brogan with Alice's cane, used in the weeks before her death.
In time, the presence of Alice Cadbury fades, but she is never really gone. A statue of her is erected in the plaza near the Darwin Memorial Art Museum, almost on the spot where Jamadigni Renuka had summoned the Digital Angel all those years ago. Tyger makes sure to visit every January 15th and every Mother's Day, Jamadigni more often. She often talks to the statue, usually asking about issues of policy, while pacing about, Corporal Cadbury the Cat following at a respectful distance. If people notice, they don't bother to mention it, but then, this is the Director of XSWAT, strangeness is to be expected.
Eventually January 15th is declared to be Angelus's Memorial Day and is given a large degree of reverence by the officers of XSWAT. Those who served with her, during the Dark Times and before, can often be found in Darwin Plaza, leaving flowers, mementos, or simply their thanks. It is a somber time, but as the Director likes to remind everyone, it is also a time to give thanks that they are still alive and able to carry one Alice's work. But still, fewer gather there every year.
* * * * *
With time, Jamadigni Renuka grows fully into her role as Director. She gains confidence, experience, and knowledge, and serves her city well. She even adds her own decoration to the hallway outside of her office. There are no paintings, not this time, there's just a single patrol jacket. It is battered and patched, clean albeit stained with substances unknown, and set into a frame on the wall. The ID badge is missing, but the Sergeant's stripes are visible. There's no label as to whom the coat belongs, but one thing is for sure, the wearer wasn't very large a person.
* * * * *
Don't give up
'cause you have friends
Don't give up
You're not the only one
Don't give up
No reason to be ashamed
Don't give up
You still have us
Don't give up now
We're proud of who you are
Don't give up
You know it's never been easy
Don't give up
'cause I believe there's a place
There's a place where we belong
Don't Give Up