Phase 38 - Mistakes of Their Youth

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Phase 38 - Mistakes of Their Youth

March 25th, CE 77 - ZAFT Carpentaria base, Australia

The beams of the morning sun lit up the dockyard as the cratered Minerva slid painfully into the berth at the Carpentaria base. The thick walls of the armored dock came grinding shut behind it, sending a rumbling vibration throughout the base.

On a balcony across the base, the door slid shut behind Joseph Copland, who pulled off his jacket as he approached the lone figure at the balcony's railing. The frail old man with a long mustache and wooden cane glanced over his shoulder with an airy sigh.

"They make a lot of noise, don't they?" Copland asked with a smile.

The lined face of Chiao Xu, the leader of the Resistance, turned back towards the Minerva, the arrow that made it work. "They have new pilots," he intoned, quiet and gentle. "I look forward to meeting them."

"The Angel of Death?"

"Precisely."

Copland shivered. "Her reputation is too fierce for someone as young as she is."

"There are children younger than her fighting this war," answered Chiao Xu, "and without her reputation, Mr. President."

"You don't need to call me 'Mr. President,' sir," Copland said, shifting uncomfortably. "That was a job I failed at."

"It takes an uncommon strength to recognize one's own failures, especially when the consequences were so momentous, and that is reason enough to accord you the respect of your old office."

Copland said nothing as an awkward silence reigned. "Well," he said at last, "I look forward to meeting this Angel of Death as well. They say she's a Newtype."

Chiao Xu fixed his gaze on the Minerva. "So they say."

The first thing that struck Emily von Oldendorf about the Carpentaria base of Australia was not anything about the base itself, but about somebody's reaction. Standing next to her on the boarding ramp, staring out over the chilly metallic tableau of Carpentaria, Shinn Asuka was a tempest of emotion. The sunglasses that hid his distinctive crimson eyes did nothing to shield Emily from the whirlwind, and she turned around in surprise but found him outwardly inscrutable.

"Sorry," Shinn said before Emily could speak. "It's nothing."

Stella danced by them obliviously, whirling down to the bottom of the ramp in a fit of giggles. Shinn and Emily descended after her.

"We're going to be here for a few days at least," Shinn went on, "so if there's anything you want to do on dry land, now's the chance."

Emily glanced around the base, peppered with mobile suits. "Isaac told me about some bad blood here," she started.

Shinn grabbed her arm, pulling her aside, as Stella's dancing came to a halt. "Speak of the devil," he growled. "Stay behind me."

Peering over Shinn's shoulder, Emily could see a handful of men in green ZAFT uniforms. The man at the lead was storming forward, a look of fury on his face.

"There you are!" he snapped. "So you thought you could hide, eh?! Traitor Asuka!"

Shinn tensed, waiting as the man came rushing forward only for a blindingly-fast blow from Stella to catch him in the chest and send him skidding back to the feet of his comrades.

"That's the Extended..." began one of the soldiers.

The man in front struggled back to his feet. "You, you're that bitch he betrayed us for!" he cried. Stella dropped into a combat stance, her eyes cold as stone, perfectly still. The soldier lunged again, fists raised

A gunshot rang through the air, and all heads snapped to the right, where a boy in a green uniform held aloft a smoking pistol, pointed towards the sky. Emily's eyes widened in surprise.

"Isaac? What are you "

"What the hell is going on here?!" demanded Isaac Kenner. The leading man struggled again back to his feet. "What are you doing here?! Answer me!"

"Who the hell do you think you are?!" the man shot back.

"I'm here under the commandant's orders to see to the protection of personnel from the Minerva. I am authorized to use deadly force if necessary. Now shut your mouth and stand down." He leveled off the pistol at the man's chest.

The leading man and his comrades scowled in disgust. "And you call yourself a ZAFT soldier," he sneered. He jabbed a finger towards Shinn. "That man does not deserve our sympathy or protection! You have no idea what you're doing!"

"I have every idea what Iím doing," answered Isaac. "Stand down or I will put you down."

A tense silence reigned, until at last the attacker and his followers turned and stalked away in a cloud of curses. Isaac breathed a sigh of relief and returned his pistol to its holster with a shrug.

"I'm sorry about that," he said with a sheepish smile towards Shinn. "I didn't " His eyes caught something familiar. "Emily! Oh, jeez, I didn't know " He shook his head. "Well, I guess you see what I meant about bad blood."

Shinn eyed Isaac carefully. "Commandant Wellington assigned you to us?"

"He hand-picked everyone assigned to protect the Minerva's crew," he answered with a nod. "And he won't tolerate any attempts on your lives. You'll be okay."

"If you say so," Shinn said with a dubious glance towards Emily. "Let's go."

Emily cast a thin smile towards Isaac, and tried not to giggle at the blush spreading across his face.

"As long as we're here and have all the extra help," said Vino tiredly as he stared down at a laptop in hand, "we're gonna take the opportunity to give the mobile suit team some much-needed upgrades."

Sitting cross-legged on the Savior's cockpit hatch, Viveka arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "I like where this is going."

"Yeah, well, don't get your hopes up," Vino answered. "For the Savior, they want to add some beam shields and tune up the avionics, and I guess there's some updates for the OS in store too."

Viveka heaved a disappointed sigh. "I get the leftovers?"

"Most of the upgrades they wanted to do have already been done by us in the field. But it's better than nothing and it will make the Savior a better partner for the Justice."

A flash of irritation flickered over Viveka's eye. "Now if only you could do the same for the pilots."

Vino glanced up. "Hey, leave me out of your drama, please," he said. "I got plenty of my own, thanks."

"Sorry," sighed Viveka, "it's just, y'know...frustrating."

"Welcome to life with Athrun Zala." He glanced back up at the Savior's darkened eyes. "Just don't be pushy and you'll be fine."

Viveka looked down awkwardly at her mechanical hand. "Yeah, well, easy for you to say."

"I know, isn't it great? I can give all sorts of advice without having to actually do the suffering to earn the wisdom. Now if you're done angsting, we have work to do."

Watching the wind sweep over the vast expanse of the Carpentaria base and catch the great ZAFT flag flying outside the commandant's quarters, Athrun Zala struggled to swallow the wave of regret washing over him. Standing on a balcony above the Minerva's dock, he looked out painfully at the barracks and dockyards he knew as a ZAFT soldier. There were too many memories bound up in his place. The pain was there, returning to this base after his hollow victory against the Strike, finding Yzak as the only one of his friends waiting for him. Nicol dead, Dearka captured and for what? His best friend, he thought, lay dead by his own hand. This was a place of suffering, and that ZAFT flag only made it more intense.

Athrun returned to the present when Meyrin arrived at his side, and with a sharp click of heels, they both went to attention as the doors across the ramp opened.

The wizened old man leaning heavily on a cane, clad in a faded khaki uniform and a bulletproof vest, was Chiao Xu. Surrounded by heavily-armed bodyguards and a handful of aides in crisp business suits and pressed black ZAFT uniforms, he hobbled forward with a steely look on his face.

"Arrived at Carpentaria, sir," Meyrin said, as she and Athrun offered sharp salutes.

The cold look changed to a stately smile. "You treat me like a general. Captain Hawke, Commander Zala, relax." The stiffness dropped away as Meyrin and Athrun shook Chiao Xu's hand in turn. "I understand you have gained some new members of your crew since you were last here."

"Three pilots," answered Meyrin. "Viveka von Oldendorf, the Black Wolf of Normandy. Rau Le Creuset, the White Knight of ZAFT." Athrun's blood boiled at the name. "And "

"Emily von Oldendorf," finished Chiao Xu, "the Angel of Death." He chuckled quietly. "Quite a roster you have collected, captain." He gestured towards the door. "I thank you for coming, captain, commander. Our fleet is almost gathered, and Commandant Wellington has successfully tested the Mirage Colloid devices we will attach to our ships. Everything is coming together, and perhaps soon, we can end this miserable war."

Athrun tensed as Chiao Xu and his bodyguards led them into the base. Chiao Xu cast a sweeping gesture over the rows of warships parked around the Minerva's massive dry-dock, and pointed in particular at one long ship with massive triple-barreled cannons on its deck.

"That ship there is where a war ended, you know," he went on. "I find it fitting that such a piece of history might yet help bring peace again. Admiral Fukube plans to make it his flagship."

"Sir," Meyrin said, and even Athrun could detect the nervousness and care with which she chose her words, "We were at Poljarny, where several of these ships and others like them fought directly against the Alliance fleet. The most they could do was stall the modern Alliance ships. These ships couldn't possibly do any better."

Athrun saw his chance. "We can't defeat the Earth Alliance in a traditional military engagement," he said. "We would need ZAFT to join us, and we would need to convince one of the member nations to break with the Alliance and join us. And there have been so many attacks "

Chiao Xu cut him off with a wave of his hand. "I know," he answered. "I need not tell you this, Commander Zala, but we are soldiers. We enter this conflict knowing that we could die, and accepting it. But too many of this war's tactics and battles make casualties out of those who are not soldiers. We must strike a decisive blow to end this war before anymore can needlessly die."

Meyrin glanced towards Athrun anxiously. "Chiao Xu, sir, thousands of our men will be killed if we go to battle with that fleet. Some of those ships used to be museums, sir. They can't fight mobile suits."

"We will make do with what we have," answered Chiao Xu, "and sacrifice what we must. We are soldiers. It is less unacceptable for us than for civilians uninvolved in this war to die."

Athrun and Meyrin shared a dismayed look as the entourage continued on, and Athrun cast a bitter glance back at the silent old battleship. A war had indeed ended on its deck once before, but it was madness to think another would end there now.

"So," sighed Sting Oakley as he slumped over the railing overlooking the Minerva's dry-dock, where mechanics were already swarming like ants over the battered, scorched hull. "Had any run-ins with bitter ZAFT vets yet?"

At his side, Auel shook his head and glanced disinterestedly at the rest of the base. "Not yet, anyway. Fuckers will be sorry if they mess with me."

Sting returned his eyes to the Minerva. "Shinn had a run-in with them," he added.

"What the hell is he doing going onto the base anyway? He knows everyone here will hate him."

"Wellington hand-picked some troops to protect us," Sting went on. "I guess that should help."

Auel sniffed contemptuously. "Like they've got nothing better to do than worry about Shinn Asuka. Doesn't the Phantom Pain or something stop by here every so often?"

"Every so often, or so I've heard. But there haven't been any attacks lately." Lights flared up as the welders set to work on the Minerva's mangled prow, turning Sting away from the ship with a squint. "Anyway, Le Creuset did tell us to bring weapons, and Wellington didn't exactly advise against it either."

"Fucking great, isn't it?" snorted Auel. "We can't even stop getting shot at in our own base."

Sting glanced across the base, at the tiny shape of a ZAFT flag flying over the commandant's quarters. "It must be something powerful to get you to hate your allies so much you can't see them as anything but enemies."

Memories were easily quashed as Rau Le Creuset strode through the grounds of the great ZAFT base of Carpentaria. Three or four years ago, he would have worn his striking white uniform, greeted by stiff salutes from respectful subordinates and colleagues. Today, only the veterans the ones who remembered Rau Le Creuset as the ace of the Valentine War, so long ago accorded him that respect. But either way was fine with Rau. Too much attention could, in fact, be a bad thing.

He was in the mobile suit hangars now, and they were all open wide to proudly display the base's teeming collection of mobile suits. He came to a stop before a yellow mobile suit, immediately recognizing it as the GuAIZ Experimental Firearms Type, built all those years ago in CE 71 to test weapons implemented on ZAFT's then-newest models, the Justice and Freedom.

The Freedom. At that, Rau grinned. He had an idea of what Valentine was doing out at Mars, now that he knew that she had the plans for the ZAKU Goliath. But that monstrosity, the final superweapon and essential ingredient Gilbert Dullindal had needed to complete his Destiny Plan, required a Newtype to serve as the controlling feature over its vast array weapons. And not just any Newtype, but a strong one and Kira, for all his strength, was not as strong a Newtype as the likes of Shinn...or Emily.

He idly wondered how he would be received when ZAFT made its eventual and inevitable return. Valentine had left him for dead, knowing that he was not in fact dead. After three years' exile at Mars, had she erased any of the loyalty he spent so long cultivating in the Ultimate Coordinator? Of course she had. Her creation had gone awry and consumed her, and the unfortunate side effect was to leave Rau Le Creuset in the cold.

But Rau Le Creuset was never without a backup plan.

He looked around and smiled. The forces here were not enough to stop the Earth Alliance, and who knew what plan of attack they were formulating, as they surely were hard at work doing. But they were enough to cause pain and delay and for the time being, that would do.

Heaven's Base, Iceland

The balding and sagging frame of Carl Schtorzmann, President of the Eurasian Federation and, after a constitutional reshuffling in the wake of the Junius War, its foremost leader hardly inspired much respect. The drooping old man sat in Lord Djibril's office, face to face with the most powerful man on Earth, and showed what Djibril almost thought was fear.

Fear, perhaps, but whatever it was, Djibril was prepared to exploit it.

"As I told you earlier, Lord Djibril," Schtorzmann began, "Project Evolution began during the Schneider government. That was years ago, when I was a mere member of the Eurasian Parliament "

"Emily von Oldendorf was born in your district," Djibril said, his voice ringing with the coolness of steel. "She was born to Gerhardt von Oldendorf, a bureaucrat whose career you helped through strategic string-pulling. And she became the central piece of a secret project known only to the highest levels of the Eurasian government a level you now occupy."

"She was transferred to your household during the Markov government," Schtorzmann protested. "I had no knowledge of this project at the time. Djibril "

"You were the Minister of Defense," Djibril cut him off. "These matters were handled at the highest levels of your ministry, the ministry you claimed to lead. How in hell's name could this get by you?"

"We considered it to be your matter to deal with once Zero-One was transferred to your custody," the Eurasian President said. "And Project Evolution had been compromised in so many other ways that we decided it was more worthwhile to shut it down "

"Project Evolution is alive and well, President Schtorzmann," Djibril snapped, "and right now it's going by the name 'Angel of Death.'" He shook his head with an irritated sigh. "But that's still not the biggest problem. There was a clone made of the mother. What has become of it?"

Schtorzmann shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "We...don't know."

Djibril's eyes flashed in fury. "You what?"

"We put the clone on a battleship at Artemis," Schtorzmann explained. "Rear Admiral Garcia himself oversaw it "

"Garcia?" Djibril interrupted. "He's the one who tried to seize the Archangel when it stopped at Artemis in the Valentine War. You put that fool in charge of a state secret?"

"We had no choice," protested Schtorzmann, "we were trying to conduct the operation at a backwater base with no attention focused on it, and Artemis was perfect. We were trying to move the clone to Althea, but the ship was attacked "

"Attacked?"

"By pirates." Schtorzmann fidgeted for a moment. "The ship was severely damaged, the crew was killed, and its cargo was gone when reinforcements arrived."

"That clone was valuable, Schtorzmann!" Djibril roared. "Now we may well have a second Angel of Death out there, waiting to be activated by anyone! That damned little girl has caused enough damage to our operations already." He fixed Schtorzmann with a murderous glare. "You, President Schtorzmann, will begin a second investigation into this calamity. Find this clone. Recapture it. Destroy it. Whatever it takes. We must not have a second Angel of Death to worry about."

March 26th, CE 77 - ZAFT Carpentaria base, Australia

To Rau Le Creuset, a man like Chiao Xu was nothing but an annoyance. That limp of his, supported by a cane in lieu of a leg made useless by an assassin's bomb that made him move so slowly, was just the start of his problems. The grim tableau of the Resistance's armada was another symptom, but to Rau, the biggest problem in this man was that the fire of determination had not yet gone out. His eyes still flickered with the hope that this fleet and the accompanying army, short as they were on manpower and modern weapons, could somehow break through Lord Djibril's legions and take no less a military prize than Heaven's Base and that, in so doing, they could end this vast and destructive conflict.

Rau Le Creuset found such people annoying because they came with every era, and yet every era then proceeded to feature its own gruesome conflict. How many times had a man declared that he had secured peace for his time, only to find his time going to war soon thereafter? Chiao Xu was but the latest blinkered leader who thought that his era's war could bring peace.

On the other hand, that made Chiao Xu useful, and for that, Rau was willing to tolerate all manner of absurdities.

Rau cast his eyes over the Resistance's growing fleet. They were to sail across the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope, and proceed north over the Atlantic to come crashing down on Heaven's Base, almost fifteen thousand kilometers away. Armed with obsolete weapons and heavily reliant on the goodwill of Wellington's forces, the plan was more an act of desperation than it was a creditable military strategy. But Chiao Xu was a saint, not a soldier, and that meant he would have settled on an attempt to score a decisive blow sooner or later. Better that it was sooner, before anyone came to their senses.

With an ocean breeze and not a cloud in the sky, it was obviously the perfect day for someone like Stella Loussier to stand on a convenient walkway atop the Carpentaria dry-dock and gaze across the sea and towards the shimmering horizon. On days like this, with clear skies and a glittering plane of water catching the sunlight, Shinn Asuka never found it hard to see why Stella was so enthralled by the sight of the sea.

"Stella hates this place," she said as Shinn approached. "It's scary."

"I know," answered Shinn, "but it's not all bad. Some of them are nice." Stella remained indignantly silent, staring at the sea. Shinn rubbed the side of his head with a sigh. "I know we all got off on the wrong foot, but we won't be here for too long."

"They're mean," came Stella's reply. "Friends aren't mean to each other."

Shinn glanced down towards the water awkwardly. They had every reason to be mean to him, of course. Some of them believed that if it weren't for his act of treachery, they would not be crammed into this base, hunted throughout the Earth Sphere and waiting for the Alliance's inevitable final blow.

On the other hand, they were not Shinn Asuka and knew nothing of the choices he had been forced to make.

"Is Shinn okay?" Stella asked.

"I'm fine," he answered, tossing her a half-hearted smile. "Just looking forward to leaving."

An awkward silence reigned in the observation deck as Viveka strode through the door and came to a halt, finding Athrun Zala brooding against the railing. A torrent of emotions and thoughts swirled together within her, before she swallowed hard and stepped up next to the silent Coordinator.

"Hi," she began. Athrun glanced up at her and merely nodded. "What's wrong?"

"I've spent the day with the Resistance's leaders," came Athrun's answer. "So I'm sort of in a bad mood."

"That's no good," said Viveka with a smirk. "Not enough translators?"

Athrun rubbed his forehead, frustration lining his face. "Not enough translators that can speak in both reality and the happy fucking fantasyland Chiao Xu and his advisers live in."

"Sounds bad."

Athrun waved his hand over his head contemptuously. "I understand that he wants to end all this pointless guerrilla fighting. It's just getting people killed with nothing to show for it. But this is not the way to do it. We should be cultivating political allies to force Djibril to the table, and this little show of force is not going to impress anybody. You can't have a show of force if you have no force to show."

Viveka shifted her weight uncomfortably as Athrun sighed. "Well, um, I guess I should apologize for being a dick to you lately," she started. "Sorry."

After a moment's pause, Athrun waved his hand. "It's alright," he said. "I've been crabby too."

"Friends?" Viveka stuck out her hand with a grin.

"Friends," answered Athrun, taking her hand.

"So now that we're friends again, wanna go meet Dr. Freeman the weapons guru?" She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder. "He might be able to make, like, a beam crowbar for you or something."

Joseph Copland was an old man.

Not truly old, Meyrin mused; he was in his late fifties at the most, and the so-called health experts always appearing on the news were insisting that seventy was the new fifty anyway. But the light in his eyes had dimmed; he seemed almost smaller, broken, sagging under the weight of a heavy conscience. He had not stopped Lord Djibril's holocaust when the power was his to do so, and that knowledge, that indubitable fact, weighed on him like nothing else. Joseph Copland was a man in penance, and his very body showed it.

This, however, meant that he was not a towering mountain of a man in whose shadow Meyrin had to literally stand. And she certainly appreciated that.

The former President of the Atlantic Federation stood at the lectern at the front of the briefing room, explaining and ordering in that booming voice that once delivered State of the Union addresses, the Resistance's military and political position in space. The Vedlow Fleet, scourge of the Earth Alliance Space Force, had issued a report. The Space Force was unnervingly quiet. They seemed to be waiting for something, but for what no one in the Resistance knew. Copland was not interested in taking chances. He had taken a chance once before.

"Commander Vedlow has agreed to keep the Debris Belt under tight surveillance," he concluded, "but we're going to have to send her additional supplies if she's to patrol the entire Debris Belt. Which means somebody needs to get one of our sponsors to pony up some cash."

"Easier said than done, Mr. Copland," someone complained, his voice thick with a Spanish accent. "The Atlantics are cracking down on any organization they think might have the remotest of ties to us."

"And they discovered the Athha slush fund," another voice added, shaded with Russian.

"Gentlemen, for all we know the Alliance could be preparing an orbital drop," Copland countered. "We need to know. The Vedlow Fleet is the only group we have in space that can find out for sure, but they must be properly supplied."

"How the hell would they pull off an orbital drop from the Debris Belt? We would notice any drop pods they set up there," groused another man, "and they don't have enough mobile suits that can independently reenter."

Copland fixed him with a steely gaze. "I am not willing to take that chance." He turned back towards the crowd. "Pull whatever financial and logistical strings you have. I know I'm asking much of you, but if the Alliance is preparing something for us in space, we need Vedlow and her men in position to stop them."

The meeting adjourned, and Meyrin quietly made her way to the front, where the former President waited. He greeted her with a wan smile, and Meyrin could see more than ever the toll this war was taking.

"I'm glad you could make it," he said with a handshake. "I know what we discussed here isn't completely relevant to you."

"I'm willing to help out anyway I can," answered Meyrin. "As long as you've got a space booster."

"We have one stored at Woomera, to the south of here, at the old test range. You'll need every kilogram of thrust you can manage, but it will get you to space." He paused for a moment. "I understand you have a new pilot that some say is a Newtype."

Meyrin blinked. "Emily, yes."

"Emily von Oldendorf?"

"...yes, what about her?"

Copland produced from his briefcase a dossier. "There's a reason why she's so talented," he said. "She was part of a military project in the Eurasian Federation, a secret of the highest order. I didn't even know about it when I was president, it was so secret. Emily is the work of something called Project Evolution."

Meyrin blinked again and fixed Copland with a skeptical look. "You're saying we've picked up another secret Alliance super-soldier?"

"Something like that." He handed over the dossier and went on as Meyrin flipped through it. "Her mother had those same abilities but didn't have the physical stamina to make much use of them. They trained Emily since she was a toddler to use those abilities and pilot mobile suits."

Blood freezing, Meyrin looked up with a gasp. "Since she was a toddler?"

Copland shrugged. "Evil things go on in the shadows around the highest places of power."

"So...so what does this mean for us?" Meyrin asked, looking helplessly back at the file.

"My sources in Odessa have warned me," Copland said, his face grim, "that she was not meant to be sent into combat until two years from now. So what I'm saying is, you had better be careful about your Angel of Death, because there are not many strings holding her together."

"Commander Walker is going to kill me for this," moaned Isaac, trailing behind Emily as they both strolled along the rows of cavernous mobile suit hangars. "I was supposed to file my report an hour ago."

"I thought you big bad Coordinators didn't need discipline," Emily answered, absently glancing up at a half-disassembled Dagger L.

"That doesn't mean we don't get it," Isaac groaned. "Besides, I think every army gets its drill sergeants from the same stock of masochists."

Emily pondered the possibility of real military discipline and decided that she was quite happy with what the Minerva and Captain Hawke were pleased to call "discipline" instead.

The mobile suits were one thing to look at. Emily had become better acquainted with them than she ever thought she would have been six months ago, but it was a rather emotionless game to match names and faces, recalling from the armored titan before her the simulated machine she had battled in one of Shinn's punishing training programs. At this point it was a game, and not particularly fun.

And now they had passed all the hangars, so there was nothing to distract her and, like an addiction, her thoughts drifted back to her mother.

Her mother was a sick, quiet, shy, kind woman who did her best to be a mother even though she rarely had the strength to get out of bed. Her mother was peaceful and gentle. Her mother would be frightened by what Emily was doing. Her mother would be upset.

Her mother was not like her.

No, Lorelei von Oldendorf had nothing in her to earn the name "Angel of Death." That she had passed on the reaper's touch to her youngest daughter, Emily could not fathom.

"Hey Isaac," she said, "what was your family like?"

The young ZAFT soldier blinked in surprise for a moment. "Well, um...they were pretty normal, actually," he said. "My dad was a teacher, my mom worked for Martius Arsenals. It wasn't really anything special." He glanced over at Emily. "Why do you ask?"

"Just curious."

Isaac arched an eyebrow. "What about your family?"

Emily cast her eyes aside awkwardly, glancing across the base, at the sea. "It's complicated."

"It's always complicated." He offered a smile. "But, not much we can do about it now, is there?"

Emily looked out to sea, where the sun was setting, and thought of her mother.

To be continued...