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Invisible Smoke

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"I'm here to see Captain Phillips," Serena said as she approached the young man sitting behind the visitors desk. A part of her knew that that probably wasn't what it was termed, but that's how she thought of it, since she was reminded of Carol and how she would greet visitors to Holby. The young man looked up, and Serena was able to read his nametag. "He is available?"

"Yes, ma'am," Private Jones replied, and she gave him a small smile as she dipped her chin. "May I have your name?"

"Yes. Doctor Serena Campbell, along with Cameron and Charlotte Dunn."

He rose to his feet and disappeared behind a door for a few minutes before returning and gesturing towards the door. "Thank you," Serena said quietly as she led Bernie's kids into the office, trying to affix a placid smile on her lips as she fixed eyes on Captain Phillips. His own expression was inscrutable, and that unnerved her a little as she drew in a slow, deep, breath as she approached the chairs in front of his desk. He dipped his chin almost imperceptibly, and she took that as her cue to take a seat, Cameron choosing the chair next to her, while Charlotte hung back, sitting near the door.

"I heard that you travelled a long way to speak with me today."

"That is correct. I know that you have spoken with an Alex Dawson about this situation, since she was working with the same group that Ms. Wolfe was, but there were things that just didn't sit right with me in regards to her story, so I had to come straight to the source to get the information from you. Is it true that you found Ms. Wolfe's body, and that she is no longer missing, presumed dead?"

He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands on his torso, his eyes narrowing a little as he regarded her. "Ms. Wolfe, she was working with MSF, correct?" Serena nodded. "And I'm assuming that she was a part of the attack that happened a few weeks ago."

Again she nodded, licking her lips a little as she glanced over at Cameron, wanting to assess what his emotions were in that current moment. She didn't want him to get too excited or overemotional, since that would get them nowhere, but it seemed like his body language was still relaxed and open, which pleased her as she went to speak. "That is correct. I know that you have a lot to do here, and I thank you for taking time to speak with me this afternoon. Would you kindly inform me of the truth behind the matter of what happened a few weeks ago?"

Captain Phillips nodded as he leaned forward, resting his folded hands on the desk as he focused his gaze on her once more. There was a unnerving quality to his gaze, and it took everything in Serena to not shrink from him as she returned the gaze steadily. "I wish that I had more news for you, but I can correct a few things that you told me. Ms. Wolfe's body has not been found, however, her body armor was located in the same location as the rest of the victims of the attack. She, along with four other people, has not been identified in the bodies that were recovered, as all were accounted for. The likelihood that she survived the blast is extremely unlikely."

"But there is the small possibility, yes?" she pressed, speaking before thinking as she leaned in towards the man. "I mean, if you were able to identify her body armour, there is the very real possibility that she wasn't wearing it, or wasn't close enough to the blast site to be truly injured. Right? Intact body armour would lead me to believe that she's just missing."

The captain's expression turned sad for just a few brief seconds, and Serena felt the small flame of her hope flicker for the first time since they had landed in Somalia. "I know that you want to grasp at every straw available, ma'am, but the likelihood that she survived is infinitesimal. Even if the blast had not killed her, the fact that her body is missing leads to the presumption that she might have walked off into the horizon and gotten lost, her faculties so muddled that she was unable to find her way back to safety. There are dangers out there that have nothing to do with the dangers that humans can bring. The act that we cannot find her is a bad sign, and as such, we have reached the conclusion that Ms. Wolfe is missing, presumed dead. I truly wish that I had better news to deliver to you, but I believe that it would be easier on you if you began to accept that as truth."

"How long did you even bother looking for her?" Cameron asked angrily, and Serena whipped her head around to look at him, feeling a wash of horror sweep over her body as she reached out and clamped her hand around his knee, tightening painfully in order to get him to stop saying anything else. She needed the captain's goodwill if she was going to get any further information out of him, since she knew that he had to capability of making their search that much more difficult. Cameron glared at her, and she frowned before cutting her hand across her throat in a clear gesture to stop speaking, and he threw himself against the back of the chair as Serena drew in a deep breath and turned her attention back to the captain, who looked more amused than anything.

"My people searched for the better part of five days. As a doctor, I'm certain that Ms. Campbell can tell you that a human being can only survive for a few days, four at the most. When the fifth day came, and there was still no sign of Ms. Wolfe, or the others who were missing, we called off the search, and regrouped our resources to help those who were injured. I know that it hurts to hear that you mother is dead like this, son…"

"How do you know she was my mum?"

"Because you look like her. Ms. Wolfe was quite well known around camp, and she had that same look about her that you have right now. I am sorry to bear bad news, but that is what I have to give. You are more than welcome to look around the base and talk to a few of the people who dealt with the explosion, in an effort to find the closure that you need. Other than that, I have nothing for you."

Serena could hear the dismissal in his voice, and she nodded as she rose to her feet, gesturing for Cameron to follow suit. He grumbled beneath his breath as he did so, but she ignored him as she extended her hand towards Captain Phillips. He shook it strongly as he also rose to his feet, showing them to the door. Charlotte was at her side the moment they were in the outer office, and she welcomed the young woman's arm around her waist as they went outside. Thankfully, Shermarke was just returning to the car when they reached it, and she gave him a small wave as he unlocked the doors for them.

"Did you get the answers that you were hoping for?" he asked as he started the vehicle, and Serena shook her head as she fastened her seatbelt. "I am sorry to hear that. Does this mean that your trip to our country is over?"

"No!" Cameron spoke up, sounding even angrier than he had been in the captain's office. "I still think that my mum is out there, alive, and they just haven't bothered to find her, since it was so much easier to just abandon the search when it got too expensive and too much of a hassle. We are going to stay here until we find her."

"I'm surprised that the captain allowed you to speak to him like that," Shermarke said evenly, and Serena shook her head.

"I did not allow Cameron to continue speaking after his initial outburst. I know that we need to make connections, not sever them, especially as we continue to stay in the country and look for Bernie. I know that it is a long shot, that there might be a small mustard seed of truth to what Captain Phillips said, but I am with Cam, and I am unwilling to give up hope just yet. The fact that her body armour was found intact has lent me more hope than I realized, but I also know that I'm going to need help while we're here, because the people who know this country, who live here, will be able to help us immeasurably."

"You are a wise woman, Doctor Campbell, and I think that it would be good for Cameron to listen to you. Now, would you like to return to the hotel, or would you like for me to show you around the city for a little while?"

Serena wasn't particularly looking forward to returning to their hotel right away, so she answered before anyone else. "Please, show us around your home, Shermarke," she replied, giving him a warm smile as he drove away from the barracks and led them out to the city proper.