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Seth finished reviewing his twentieth box of witness files just as the Saturday sun rose over Los Angeles. Since early the previous morning he had been preparing for a full slate of depositions for each day in the coming week. This followed the five other depositions, two court hearings, and three motions he had attended to in the last 28 days. The case was an enormous trade secret theft litigation where Seth’s clients, a group of scientists working in a tiny Boston lab, accused nearly every major pharmaceutical company of conspiring to steal their ideas for genetic experimentation. Although the firm had taken the case for a contingency fee, at least $3 billion in damages were at stake. This gave the firm sufficient motivation to have Seth lead a small army of other associates in chasing down every lead before the approaching discovery deadline. Seth slid his glasses up over his forehead and tried without success to massage the strain from his eyes. Had there been a soul around to walk by his office and see him just then, they would have thought him weary from the previous long night earning his substantial salary as an associate at one of the country’s largest and most successful firms. But it was actually the day ahead that wore most heavily on his mind. Seth’s first stop that morning was a car dealer where he had recently put his year-end bonus to good use by purchasing a new car for his wife to replace her aging coupe. Sitting in the dealer’s customer lounge, Seth switched on the television, his first such diversion in weeks. The program was a documentary on the French Foreign Legion, that elite military unit populated by foreign volunteers who were forbidden from enlisting in the French Army. According to the program, those who join the Legion at Fort De Nogent in eastern Paris first turn in their passports, choose a new name if they wish, and sign a five-year contract before they are shipped off to Castelnaudary for training. Once behind the Legion’s walls no one is found unless they desire it. The documentary said that many who join are running from something, and voluntarily trade their old identities, and with it their troubled pasts, for the Legion’s regimental life and its singular command to march or die. Just as Seth was getting engrossed, the salesman interrupted to let him know his car was ready. In addition to various technological toys and accessories, they had installed a car seat for his new baby girl who was currently residing in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit where she had been housed in an incubator since her birth a month earlier. She had arrived just over three months premature and wouldn’t likely ride home from the hospital for quite some time, but Seth was always one to be prepared. From the dealer he went straight to the hospital to see his daughter. As he rode the elevator up to the NICU, he felt a now familiar weight form on his shoulders, pushing him down physically and mentally as if fighting back against the slow rising force of the elevator’s lift. By the time Seth reached his floor he felt the pressure of his life in all his joints. The NICU held six bays of infants with eight beds to a bay. Seth shuffled past the first three, his eyes downcast, as he rolled up his sleeves for the two-minute hand washing ritual that would permit him to reach into the incubator and stroke his baby’s soft hair. At bay four he found his wife shrinking into a rocking chair and enshrouded in a hospital issued blanket. She was staring at the plastic enclosure where their daughter was drawing food and air from an assortment of alien devices while her thin, yellow limbs flailed senselessly. A white mask covered most of the baby’s face to protect her eyes from the glare of a blue bilirubin light pad that shined from below and, hopefully, would cure her jaundice and make the blood transfusions less necessary. His wife’s expression was something between hopelessness and misery, just as it had been for at least a week, ever since her father had died suddenly, just days after he had come to the see the baby for the first and last time. Seth wondered how he could tell his wife about the heart surgery he had learned their daughter would need to close an errant valve in her heart. He suddenly knew why he had been working almost nonstop since the baby arrived. As he stood at the entrance to bay four, watching his daughter in her cage of plastic and his wife in her cage of grief, Seth wanted to turn back and drive to his office where everything was familiar and monotonous. He wanted to go back to the place where he could just bill hours and accomplish tasks. He wanted to join the Legion. He wanted to march or die. Ellisen Turner is an associate at the Los Angeles office of Irell & Manella LLP where his practice includes intellectual property litigation and patent prosecution. You may reach him at [email protected].

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