Chapter 232 [Bonus Chapter] Eileen'sConversation
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Outside, in the Nomad Compound, around the same time as Aldrich's talk with Blackwater -
Eileen sat on a bench with Stella, wondering at the many cloaked men and women that roamed around the cracked earth.
Stella took a big swig from a bottle of whiskey. "You know, one thing I like about this new body, aside from it not having to deal with annoying little heart attacks, is the fact that I don't get drunk anymore.
Or maybe that's a bad thing."
Eileen did not really respond, distracted not just by the nomads that she had never really seen up close before, but by what she had seen with Aldrich. She was thoroughly scared.
Aldrich was not like Minuteman. He was colder. He did not hesitate to turn that Blackwater student into dust. She wondered if she even belonged here.
"What's got you all down, kid?" asked Stella. She smiled at Eileen. "If you feel down, just tell me. I'm your senior in both life and heroism, after all!"
"You're not scared being here?" asked Eileen.
"Huh? Why would I be?" Stella cocked her head.
"Of Aldrich, he-he seems almost like a villain sometimes," said Eileen.
"Oh that, yeah, I totally agree," said Stella simply.
"R-really? But you seem so calm and okay with it all…"
"I dunno. Maybe I wasn't all that cut out to be a prim n' proper hero like that red and blue boy Minuteman," said Stella. She shrugged. "But y'know, Minuteman DID sponsor him."
"That is true…" Eileen lowered her head.
"How old are you? Like seventeen? It's no wonder you're all shaken up. Judging by your powers, you'd probably have been trained for rescue ops and mobilization. Haven't had to kill anyone then, have you?" said Stella.
Eileen shook her head. She knew it was not uncommon for heroes to have to kill. It was a relatively accepted thing, even. If a situation got tense, then heroes had authority to use lethal force.
Even Minuteman had killed people before. Villains that harmed and killed others, granted, but still people. But that was totally different from eviscerating someone because they spoke up.
"I can accept having to kill - it's just a part of this job, and I've been trained for it as well," said Eileen. "But killing just to scare people into listening? I don't know about that."
"Hmm. Is that what you think?" Stella looked around at the nomads streaming by with their cloaks and goggles. "Y'know, I grew up as a nomad too.
Not out here in the Wastelands, where there's big stretches of nothing, but in the Forestlands full of overgrown plants and variants.
Back there, in the nomad commune, my pa was pretty high up. One day, I saw him take a man out who'd been stealing meat from our hunts. My pa put the thief against a wall and gunned him down. Cold blooded execution.Pan da
Novel After that, though, nobody stole anything. At least not for a while, until the memory of the thief's brains splattered against the walls faded.
That's what fear does - it keeps people in line. And some people only respond to fear. The type you see among those Blackwater students - they're the type that fear works on well.
You might think fear gets a bad rep, but it's necessary sometimes. Especially out here when people are just trying to survive - they've got no time to worry about drawn out trials and appeals and whatnot that you see in a city.
Shit, half the time, those are all rigged too. You ever see a business exec go behind bars? Unless another exec planned it."
"You accept it, then? The fear he uses to control?" said Eileen, shaken up.
"Do I accept it? World's not so simple. It isn't black or white or acceptance or refusal." Stella shrugged. "Best put, I understand it. It's efficient, and Aldrich is all about that."
"But efficiency above all else…don't you worry Aldrich might become someone you can't follow? Someone you can't respect?"
Stella downed the rest of her bottle and then tossed it behind her. It hit a nomad in the head who raised his hand in ready to shout something, but very quickly backed down when she shot him a life threatening glare.
She sighed before turning back to Eileen. "Think about it this way. Why did you become a hero?"
"Because I wanted to help people," said Eileen.
"Right. I knew you would say something like that," said Stella.
"You make it sound like it's a bad thing."
"No it ain't. It's just predictable. I wanted to be a hero to help people too, when I was your age. What I want to ask you is this: ever since Aldrich took you up from the dead, how many people have you saved?"
"Well, the people in Haven, for one-," began Eileen.
"Right. So thousands upon thousands of people. How many had you saved as a trainee?"
"Uhm, maybe a hundred?"
"Wow, a hundred? That's a huge number for a trainee. But compare that to a hundred thousand plus. Where's the comparison?"
"…You're right. If you look at it in terms of numbers, I've done more than I ever could have, even working as a hero."
"Precisely." Stella nodded. "I feel like I'm making an impact here. Back when I was a hero, I was weaker, that's for sure, but I also didn't see a future for myself.
Just a regular ol' D lister used as a pretty face here and there for a commercial. Hell, I didn't even get to be front and center of those commercials too, always just a background prop.
Over the years, I kinda forgot that I wanted to save people. I just did the bare minimum, scraping by to get enough AP to make credits and live a decent life.
Out here, though, I feel alive again despite technically being dead. I feel like I'm making the change I wanted to."
Stella patted Eileen's back. "This is just my advice, but if you really, REALLY want to help people and not just end up being a prop in the AA, stuck in a hellhole of fighting for the easiest and best jobs or sponsorships, then you stick with Aldrich.
If you want to be recognized for what you can do and not what you can offer for companies, then you stick with Aldrich."
"I think I'm coming to understand. I feel better now about all of this. Thanks, Stella." Eileen smiled. "I was just shaken up seeing something I wasn't used to."
Stella smiled back. " Aldrich, deep down, at least I think, is a decent guy. He wants what's best overall for everyone.
The means he uses, a lot of the time they might seem harsh, but you'll understand them in time."
"Yeah. The AA doesn't like to publicize the bad cases. The type that makes your gut crawl with disgust. The kind that makes you wonder whether humans are no better than rabid dogs." Stella clenched her jaw, sparks starting to fly from her fingertips as she reminisced about awful things Eileen could not even comprehend. "But you'll have to deal with those in time.
When you do, you'll come to know better why he does what he does. Until then, if you want to help others, stay here."
Stella smiled again and put a friendly, sisterly arm around Eileen's shoulder. "And I'll make sure to take care of you, cute little sweet thing you are."