Chapter 8

"So how is Barry?" Astrid asked Caitlin, as they rode the elevator to their floor.

"That's what I've been meaning to tell you. There are some peculiar readings with his vitals."

"What do you mean peculiar?" Astrid asked her puzzled, this topic also grasped Cisco's attention.

"His readings are off the charts." Caitlin told them, "His cells are moving at such a rapid speed for someone who has been electrocuted post slipping into a coma. It's almost as if there are electrical currents working within his body. I believe that he may have been altered due to the effects of the meteor, along with the lights when he was struck."

"What do you think the effects might be?" Astrid asked her,

"I'm not sure yet, we may need to find out." Caitlin responded leading them out of the elevator doors.

They had arrived to their floor, and they made their way to Barry's bed.  The floor was quiet, which Astrid enjoyed. Barry continued to lay sleeping peacefully. "Has Joe been to check on him?" she asked her friends.

Caitlin nodded, "he didn't want to leave".

Astrid glanced up towards her father's office. She imagined her father walking out at any minute, though she knew it was impossible. "Well he does see Barry as a son." She said softly. "So where's this guy Luthor's number? I'll call him now."

Caitlin handed Astrid a piece of paper with some details scribbled neatly in blue pen.

She took the paper and made her way to her own private office, closing the door behind her, preparing to call the man of the organization who had last seen her father alive.

She dialed the number and waited for the receptionist to pick up the phone. "Hello, Mr Lionel Luthor's office, how may I help you?" a high pitched feminine voice answered.

Astrid hesitated. This would be her first phone call that she would make as a CEO of her father's company.

"Hi, er... my name is Astrid Sutherland? I received a call from..." she mentally checked the words in her head hoping that she sounded professional, the woman on the other end broke her off. "...Putting you through to Lionel's office right now..."

There was a pause and then a click and then "This is Lionel Luthor." He sounded as if he were her father's age. "Hi, this is Astrid Sutherland. You rang?" she mentally kicked herself for her lack of professionalism.

"Ahh yes, Miss Sutherland... My condolences to your father, but let me get down to business. I am aware that your father sent you samples of the meteor from the meteor storm, against my knowledge..."

Astrid gasped, was he expecting her to send them all back? Caitlin had told her that he had some sort of proposition.

"...However, I understand that Sutherland Labs has quite some standing in today's research industry. So I would like to kindly ask for you to join forces with Luthor Corp. What I am proposing is that I supply you with more samples of the meteor and you report your findings with me. We could work together on this project."

Astrid hesitated in answering. She had heard negative talk in relation to Luthor Corp in the past. Sutherland Labs had their samples why would they need more?

After noting her hesitation, Lionel continued speaking, "...I can hear hesitation from your part. Let me assure you that if you do refuse, your father's name will be branded as a thief. He rightfully stole Luthor Corp property when he sent it to Sutherland Labs. But if you do accept the deal, we can forget that it ever happened. We can start fresh...on good terms. What do you say Miss Sutherland?"

Astrid felt the pang in her gut. She had a bad feeling about all of this but she would not let her father's name go down as a thief. "Okay, Mr Lionel. I accept your conditions. What do you need me to do?"

"Good girl! Nicely done. We'll be in touch." He told her. The phone went silent. He had hung up. She felt as if she were being patronized. She put down her receiver softly and looked up as Cisco walked in curious as to why she had a frustrated expression on her face.

"That man is a bully." She told him. "We will be working with Luthor Corp from here on. The employees are going to hate this, but we have no choice." 

Cisco wanted to tell her that she was making a big mistake. She could see it in his face. She agreed with him, but she was feeling powerless to stop it.

A few days had passed and Astrid did her best to avoid the news reports which branded her as a sell-out in teaming up with Luthor Corp.

"They will need you to deliver a press conference," Joe told Astrid as he came to visit Barry. "I cannot do it!" she told him. "I hate the decision as much as anyone does, but we need these samples. We need this opportunity."

She refused to tell him that she was being blackmailed by the man.

"I just hope that you know what you are doing, Astrid. People have begun quitting. We need our scientists." Cisco informed her. "You have to do something, to assure them that you're not selling out the business."

"How many have left, so far? We only just released the news two days ago."

"By these reports? 107." He answered her staring at his computer screen.

"107? That many?" she couldn't believe it. "Ok, I'll set something up. I might have to do it at CCPD for the security."

"I can arrange that for you, if you like," Joe offered. "I am about to head home, but I can contact Singh on the way."

Astrid accepted and Joe left to arrange it.

Astrid watched as Caitlin began checking Barry's vitals again. Cisco busied himself with his computer. Her grief was catching up with her, she was nervous about the press conference. Her father's entire legacy was riding on her shoulders. It all seemed too much to bare. She needed a distraction from feeling this way. From feeling that her entire world was crumbling.

How could her friends be so calm while Astrid's world was falling apart? She was jealous of them both at that point. But she was also depending on them both to keep her standing tall. Both of them were locked within their own thoughts. She watched as Caitlin was now bustling with her back to her, fiddling with her glass beakers.

Astrid needed to know what was going on through her mind. How did she do it? How did she remain so calm? What was her secret? She allowed herself to do something that she shouldn't have. She read Caitlin's thoughts...

'Did I really just do that? Did I just make frost form on that glass beaker? No, I didn't. Oh! That's a relief. I thought I was going crazy. Someone's looking at me...'

Caitlin turned around and met Astrid's gaze, expecting her to say something. But Astrid didn't. She built up the courage to walk to her father's office door and placed her hand on the handle. She hesitated opening it. Her friends were both staring at her, she was aware of that.

She took a breath in. She knew that she would eventually enter this office sooner or later. She wanted to push herself. Astrid turned the handle and walked into the room.

Immediately,memories began to flush into her mind. She remembered the last time that she had stood there. She remembered the argument that she had had with her father, about the animal testing.

It seemed like a lifetime ago. She remembered the last time she saw her father as he left in a hurry with his assistant. His assistant had died in the attack too, or so she had heard.

Her mind was brought back to the present. To this empty room. She walked slowly towards his neat desk. A few documents sat on top of a manilla folder in a neat pile.

His computer was closed. The photo in the golden frame caused a tear to fall down her cheek. 

It was of the last holiday that she, her father and her mother had taken as a family. Her parents had disputed as to who would ask the stranger to take the photo. Astrid had done so while they were debating. It had been an amazing day that day.

"Are you OK?" a voice interrupted her thoughts from behind her.

She jumped as she turned around. Cisco was standing there, clearly concerned for her. Her mind was still elsewhere. She wiped the tear from her cheek and sniffled.

She studied him and wondered why he had followed her. She couldn't control herself as she experienced a moment of weakness. She read his thoughts. As she did, she wished that she could take back her action, for she regretted it instantly.

'How do I say it? How do I tell her?' Cisco thought to himself, unaware that Astrid could hear his thoughts, 'Just say it... Tell her you love her. That you would do anything for her. That you have loved her from the very first moment you saw her...'

"Hey Astrid..." Caitlin came charging into the office, "Joe called captain Singh on his way home. Singh said that you can hold the press conference there but you need to move quickly..."

Astrid was relieved for the intrusion. She did not need any more emotions impacting her current situation. "Thank you, Caitlin." She exclaimed as she ran out of her father's office and headed to the elevator without a second glance at Cisco.


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