by Jules Mills
Part One – Horizontal Motion
“Oh, my God, this is disgusting,” Rachel Jones commented as she tried to roll the large, stiff body onto its back. The corpse’s head was glued to the floor by dried blood and would not budge.
“Kev, you got a spatula or something over there?”
Kev Grinchgold was filling a large plastic bucket with bleach and water. He opened a few drawers in the kitchen, found a paint stirrer, and tossed it to the hacker.
“You have to be fucking kidding me.” She took the wooden spatula and wedged it under the man’s head, rolling him with a loud, ripping sound onto his back. The man’s eyes were a cloudy gray, and blood had congealed in his thick, dark hair where it had lain in the blood. By the lack of a prominent cheekbone, it looked as though the bones on the right side of his face had been shattered.
In the trunk of the blue Sable, Kev had found a tarp, which was now lying on the floor between the two bodies, and a freshly-purchased, blue Wal-Mart bag of clean-up supplies. With both hands and a foot, Rachel gave a shove to the large corpse, which was now in rigor mortis. It rolled onto the tarp with a thwap. Then she walked around the other side and dragged the limp body of Henry Taxson onto the tarp as well.
Together she and Kev Grinchgold dragged the full package to the garage and placed the bodies in the trunk of the Sable, which Kev had pulled into the garage.
“I’m going to get double pay for this, right?” Kev asked as they reentered the house.
“I was asking myself the same question,” Rachel admitted, following him back inside.
Together they took several rolls of paper towels and began to clean up the blood from the floors, walls, and furniture as well as any other remainders of the previous day’s battles. Cleaning the blood off the concrete in the basement required a hose hooked up from the outside faucet draped through a window. The floor was sprayed until it was clean and the bloody water was washed into the sump pump. Then they climbed back upstairs to finish the house.
Both Kev and Rachel stared at the window pane of the back door.
“What do we do about that?” Kev asked.
Rachel shrugged. “Hell if I know.”
“Want me to go buy another pane?”
“At two in the morning? I don’t k now about you, but I want to get the hell out of here.”
“So what do we do?”
“We’ll cover it up with cardboard or plastic and make it look like he did it himself.”
Using duct tape he had found in the car trunk, Kev taped up the window while Rachel washed away fingerprints and blood traces with a chemical protein-degrading agent also found in the car. It was likely that they were carrying out Henry Taxson’s housekeeping plans.
They packed away all of the cleaning materials in a plastic bag with the bodies and drove the Sable away, watchful of any neighbors who might have been spying after all of the noise.
“This is a spooky neighborhood,” Rachel commented as she looked at the quiet, seemingly desolate houses. And then she thought about Dana, tossed away to die in that little hole, and the neighborhood seemed fitting to that kind of horror.
“What about the bodies and the car?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped. “It’s not like I do this shit every day. I’m a computer programmer, not a Pulp Fiction character.”
“We can’t drive around forever with two bodies in a stolen car.”
“Yes, Kev, I am very much aware of that.” You owe me big-time for this one, Papadopolis, she thought to herself.
God, she loved how Dana tasted, the curls brushing her cheek as she nibbled on evidence of her lover’s arousal…loved seeing the hood expose its treasure…loved the soft texture…loved smelling the delicate musk that clung to her lover…loved the tremors her kisses drew. She loved it all–tastes, textures, smells, sights, and sounds–and doubted that she could live another day without them. Dana was truly a feast for the senses. Fearing that Dana was going to peak too soon, she released her hold, withdrawing her mouth and allowing Dana to slide back beneath the cooling waters, dampening her fire and giving Grace the opportunity to stoke it again slowly.
Nestling a small hand in the place it had found between Dana’s thighs, she stroked the area teasingly. A particular movement made Dana’s body jerk, and a cherubic face looked up at the dark-haired woman.
Blue eyes blinked and smiled. “A little.”
When Dana leaned forward to place a kiss on the top of her head, she paused in her assault on Dana’s chest to return the kiss before moving her attention elsewhere, taking her time and slowly inching her hand lower.
The hand adjusted its pressure and speed in the water, and blue eyes twinkled under dark lashes.
The doctor moved back up the long body until they were face to face. She watched the dark face as its lids drooped and the blue eyes glassed over in pleasure.
Once again changing speed, Grace watched her silent lover’s breath quicken as lips and legs parted, opening to her movements. Lowering her mouth against Dana’s, she stole her lover’s air, breathing in the warm smell of skin and passion. Blue eyes closed as again she brought their lips together with the barest of feather-light touches. The hand which had been kneading the doctor’s rounded bottom no longer moved. This stilling of Dana’s body told Grace that her lover was getting close, and shelistened eagerly for the soft moan or low gasp, these small sounds her quiet lover’s only sounds of release.
A large, callused hand snaked its way from the side of the tub between the two bodies to the round breast, palming an already-hard nipple. This caused Grace to arch forward harder onto Dana, whose breathing had quickened and was coming now in rapid pants which signaled that drawing air was no longer her goal. She stopped breathing altogether as Grace entered her with her fingers, brushing the already-swollen clit with her thumb. The touch resonated in her own body, moving her deeper into the embrace and Dana. With a smile, she watched as the small muscles along her lover’s cheeks twitched with the strain of containing her passion. God, she loved this part. She was the only one, the only one Dana allowed to see her this vulnerable, to make her this vulnerable–the only one she trusted enough to touch her. This was the most precious and wonderful thing about their lovemaking: the trust.
Dana tried to move into the doctor’s touch, but Grace altered her motions, diving along the muscular thighs before again brushing against sensitive skin, her reward the barest of tremors which rippled through her lover’s muscular frame. Keeping Dana guessing, she alternated soft, slow caresses with lightning-quick attacks, further sensitizing already-responsive flesh.
Muffling Dana’s soft vocals with her mouth, she teased her way around parted lips before sliding her tongue over Dana’s and exploring the silken heat of her lover’s mouth. Matching the rhythm of her tongue to the one set by her fingers, she brought Dana higher, almost–but not quite–taking full possession of the moist heat pulsing under her touch. Synchronous shivers ran through her body, transmitting themselves to Dana through the contact of their bodies, locking them in a feedback loop that threatened to engulf them both. The heat from the satin walls delighted her, drawing her deeper into her passionate exploration.
Grace watched in fascination as her lover’s face continued to darken and contort with the pleasure rippling through her muscles. A quirky twist to the full lips…so close, Dana was so close. Grace deepened her movements and Dana gasped, the low, drawn-out groan triggering an equally intense reaction in her own body. Twisting her hand slowly, she claimed more of her lover, driving the tall woman to the edge of her control. The long form under her spasmed and jerked slightly before relaxing and becoming still. Only the sound of two sets of ragged breathing returning to normal filled the silence of the bathroom.
Moments later Dana’s blue eyes fluttered open, light and sated. Tired green eyes sparkled at her, and a gentle hand caressed her forehead, brushing back dark bangs and revealing a white scar at the hairline before sealing the intimacy of their lovemaking with a kiss.
Moving her once-stilled hand, she renewed her exploration of Grace’s supple flesh, tracing circular patterns on the firm cheeks before dipping lower and zeroing in on her target.
Aftershocks continued to linger between Dana’s legs, the tingles beginning anew as Grace’s hands continued to run over her torso even as the doctor lowered herself over a long, rigid thigh. She gripped Grace’s hips, moving her in time to the internal tempo of the pulsing rhythm still coursing through her, transmitting her instructions by sliding her lower forward and then back again.
Grace’s warm breath heated her lover’s already-flushed face, searing her >from chin to cheek. One hand was braced against the tile as she quickened her movements. Responding to the increased urgency, Dana lifted her knee, causing green eyes to close in pleasure and her morevocal lover to groan and murmur as she neared climax. Teasingly she traced a light path across the taut abdomen, tugging at the dark curls, fingers dancing over slightly-parted lips before spinning away to trace the muscles of the firm backside.
Even through the water surrounding them Dana could feel the heat leaking >from Grace.
Marveling that she had inspired such an intense level of arousal in her lover, she pressed Grace harder against the thigh she was riding, feeling the hard, sensitive nub jump in response to the increased stimulation. Grace ground against one thigh, sliding against her, accidentally bumping her mound and sending electric shocks back through Dana’s skin.
Still a little high, Grace didn’t take long to display the tell-tale tremors, and Dana felt the rush of wetness against her thigh as her partner peaked, grunting and shaking with the waves of her orgasm. The violent spasms of her release drove her thigh firmly against Dana, and suddenly the taller woman joined her in release, her soft moans twining with Grace’s louder ones.
Grace nestled her face in Dana’s neck and kissed her. The water had cooled, and the porcelain tub against Dana’s rump was becoming uncomfortable after her two days on the concrete floor
“Want to go to bed, Chipmunk?” Dana whispered into the hair that tickled her nose.
“Mmmmm.” A moment, and then the doctor reluctantly lifted herself off the larger frame. Wobbly legged, she stepped over the edge of the tub and grabbed two towels off the rack above the toilet, holding one open for her lover. Dana winced as she stood straight and allowed Grace to wrap her up in the white, fluffy towel.
Together they crawled under the covers of the large bed and cuddled into each other’s arms.
“What day is it?” Dana asked. The two had not spoken much during the drive, during which Dana had been simply adjusting to the fact that she was alive.
“Mrs. Nesmith is feeding her.”
“Oh.” Long fingers drew circles on the bare shoulder. “You missed work.”
“Not for you.”
“You’re worth a less-than-perfect attendance record.” An easy smile crossed pink, satisfied lips.
“I killed that man.”
A pause. “Was he trying to hurt you?”
“Yeah.” A few more circles. “Do you think all killing is wrong?”
Grace rolled up to her side to face her lover. “I would rather have you here than not have you.”
Dana turned her head to look at her companion. “I don’t feel bad about it, and I think I should. Would you feel bad about it?”
Grace stared at the blanket. “Dana, I don’t know how to answer that. When you were a kid, did you ever think you would be in this situation?”
Dana looked back at the ceiling. “No, I wanted to be a fisherman.”
“That’s kind ofwhere I am, Dana. I’m a doctor, and I don’t think I could picture myself in that situation, or want to picture myself in that situation. But if I had to protect a child or someone I love, like you, I could probably do it, although I guess I would feel some guilt…but that’s speculation.”
Dana thought about that as she stared at the ceiling.
“How did you get in the basement?”
“I don’t know. I had Reichert cornered and then–wham!–blackness.”
“Reichert? Is he the other dead guy?”
“No. That was Steve…I mean Henry. He must have snuck in while I was concentrating on Reichert.”
“Reichert? Why does that name sound familiar?”
“He led the Alpha and Beta projects. He says he’s working for the government, but I’ve been thinking about that. He must have gone commercial, sold himself to someone; otherwise I would have been U.S. property long ago.”
“So it’s not over, is it?”
“So what do we do next?”
“Go home and go back to work. Maybe Rachel and I can locate him electronically.”
“And do what? Kill him?”
Dana swallowed, at a loss for words.
“Dana, I think that would be wrong. It’s premeditated.”
“I didn’t say I would kill him.”
“Did you think it?”
“Well…yeah. Does that make me a bad person?”
“No, it makes you very human, especially after what he’s done to you. But it’s not the answer.”
“I know.” A sigh. “What do you suggest?”
“Find him and his lab and destroy their project.”
Dana stared at the ceiling in silence.
“You’re fire, you know,” the blonde stated.
Blue eyes quietly regarded her.
“You’re his fire. He needs you. And that’s why he didn’t extinguish you.”
“Are you high?”
“You are. Look at your pupils. You’re high as a kite.”
“I took something to stay awake.”
Dana climbed out of bed and walked over to the doctor’s coat, shoving her hands into the pockets until she found the amber container.
“B-aminopropylbenene? Jesus, Grace, how long have you been…?”
The blonde forced herself out of bed and walked over to the nano tech.
“Give me those.”
Dana held them up high so that the shorter woman could not reach them.
“I only took them this weekend, so I could stay awake.”
“No more,” the dark-headed woman stated sternly. She walked to the bathroom and flushed them down the toilet.
“I wasn’t going to take any more anyway,” Grace claimed. “Besides, you smoked.”
The tall woman brushed past her and climbed back into bed. “I was trying to get your attention, Knucklehead, not high.”
Part Two – Velocity, Not To Be Confused with Speed
The very last place Grace Wilson wanted to be going at four-thirty on that Tuesday afternoon was to work. But after thirteen frantic messages from her assistant, an accountant who appeared to be even younger than she named Greyson Davenport, begging her to call him back, she had resigned herself to the task.
She walked down the tiled hallway, briefcase in hand, to her office. The lack of sleep, the emotional yo-yo she had been on, and the withdrawal from her pills had left her rather mellow and not wanting or able to think, especially about numbers.
Grey’s brown eyes lit up as soon as he caught sight of his boss passing his doorway.
“Dr. Wilson!” he yelled, springing from behind his desk and into the hallway. “Dr. Buchler has been calling for you all day.”
“Ah, Barbara can bite me,” she mumbled unprofessionally as she rounded the corner into her office. She smiled at herself and thought, I must have picked up a little of Dana’s irreverence, and it was good.
“Good afternoon, Grace.”
Grace looked up and stopped in her tracks, a heat of rosy flush spreading across he cheeks. Oh, shit! she thought. Not so good.
“Barbara,” she managed.
Dr. Barbara Buchler was sitting on Grace’s leather couch, dressed primly in a gray skirt suit and two-inch black pumps. Grace crossed behind her desk and settled her briefcase on the floor next to her chair.
“Where have you been, Grace?”
“I had an unexpected personal situation I had to attend to.”
“And you could not call in to tell me?”
“It was something of an emergency.” For some reason, she was becoming incredibly irritated.
“So are those numbers I needed–yesterday.”
“You’ll get your numbers tomorrow morning. I have to consult with my technical people before I make any projections, and I haven’t had a chance to do that. Otherwise we may overrun, and we wouldn’t want that.” To her own ears she sounded much more caustic than she had intended.
“No, Dr. Wilson, we do not want that,” her supervisor responded in the same tone. “Where is Ms. Papadopolis?”
“She’s home with the flu.”
“Hmmm. And Dr. Jones?”
“She took a personal day.” Grace began to make a show of going through her in-basket.
Dr. Buchler looked down her long nose at the hillbilly doctor and studied her green eyes and pouting lips.
“I want those figures no later than eight tomorrow morning.” She left the office, her heels clicking their way down the hall.
“You’ll get them.”
Grace pulled the untouched folders from her soft leather case, opened them flat on her desk, and stared at the columns of labor categories and current dollar allocations based on the different tasks planned for the project. She could understand why Dana hated this part. Her head ached and she was feeling a little shaky as well as extremely tired. She took a few deep breaths to try to shake off her despondency, but it didn’t work. She walked down the hallway to the small employee lounge, which was vacant at this hour, and helped herself to a bottle of water from the refrigerator. When she returned to her office, she opened her desk drawer and pulled out an amber container of pills, dispensing two into her hand. She popped them into her mouth and chased them with a large amount of water.
Dana was sitting at the kitchen, counter, dressed in long flannel lounge pants and a baggy, white, V-neck T-shirt. Rachel Jones was sleeping on her couch, snoring so loudly that the termites had abandoned their strongholds and run for the hills. From across the room, Doc watched the rise and fall of the hacker’s chest and smiled to herself.
An image of the dusty York Prison courtyard and Rachel belly-down while Ruel Gundy and her sister had kicked the fallen hacker flashed through the nanotech’s mind. She could not remember if she had hesitated, but before she knew it, she had driven her fist into Ruel Gundy’s spine, knocking her to the ground. A second later her sister was lying next to her, and Doc was towering over both of them, a dark demon consuming her body and soul. Standing up for the hacker whom she had met only two hours before had not been the smartest of moves for Doc. Life had been relatively quiet for the prior three months, but her acts that day had definitely destroyed the peace. But with 20/20 hindsight, it was probably one of the best decisions she had ever made, for now she had a friend for life.
Doc was on her third bottle of Gatorade, the dehydration from the flu and the starvation leaving her parched and wobbling. Through the thin lenses of her wire-rimmed glasses, she returned her attention to the screen of her laptop and the one question that seemed most important: how the hell was she going to find Reichert?
When the hacker finally awoke, the sun had long since set, and Dana had been running searches through all of the commercial chemical and biological companies on the World Wide Web. She had come up with nothing that stood out or struck her as something Reichert might be involved in, although, she had to admit, he would never advertise it. But sometimes the most benign of postings could be clues, and scientists often solicited help through postings on the Web.
So when the hacker came into the kitchen and helped herself to some water, Doc was ready to start picking at her gray matter for ideas.
The hacker downed a bottle of water while watching the waves from the kitchen window.
“It’s tranquil here.”
“Yep,” Dana replied, without looking up from her screen.
“You’re lucky. You’ve found a babe with a great spread.”
Dana smiled at the implications. “Yep.”
“I wish I had someone like Grace.”
Dana looked up. “I wish you did too, Rach.”
Rachel turned to face her friend. “You should have seen her barreling into that house last night.”
A quirky grin crossed the nanotech’s face. “I appreciate what you did for me too, Rach.”
The hacker shrugged. “All in a day’s work…. So Reichert has returned from hell?”
“Yep.” A sigh.
“He wants you?”
“Looks that way.”
“At least he’s not trying to kill you any longer.”
“I’m not so sure of that.”
“You’d be dead if he were. He had the chance.”
“Unless he just wanted to torture me.”
“Nah, he likes to watch the people die. That’s why he used the Beta and Alpha. To watch.”
Dana thought about that and Rachel’s insight.
“He’s working on another killer.”
“But he’s stalled?”
Dana nodded, her arms crossed over her chest. “He wants me now.”
“What are we going to do?”
Bright blue eyes searched the programmer’s round cheeks and brown eyes. Dana wondered why Rachel still said “we” after everything she had already done to help. “Rach, you don’t owe me anything.”
“Shut up, Doc.”
“Okay, I want to find the little prick and take him out.”
A long pause. “Not necessarily. I want to destory his file, his lab, and, if I have to, I will kill him.”
“How do we find him?”
“I was really hoping you could tell me.”
Dr. Jones, the brilliant MIT computer scientist who hated for people to call her “Doctor” or even know she had a degree, came around the counter and viewed the laptop.
“What have you tried so far?”
“Of what? His name, aliases?”
“And I looked for project names and research facilities that I might recognize. But he could be anywhere.”
“He’s in the States.”
“How do you know that?”
“Money. U.S. corporations will pay more here because we don’t have the brainpower that the Japanese or Germans do. If Reichert were a tech himself, it would be different. The foreign corps would pay for him. But you carried his program.”
“Any idea who’s big in nano warfare nowadays?”
“No, Doc. The only reason I’m into this shit is because of you.”
Dana studied her friend for several seconds. “So how do I find him?”
“He’s not using the same name?”
“He’s not that stupid.”
“Set a trap. If he was desperate to come for you once, he’ll come again.”
“I would rather not be surprised again, Rach.”
“Then let me in there, and I’ll see what I can find,” the programmer said, nodding toward Dana’s stool in front of the computer.
Dana relinquished her post.
“What are the chances they’re soliciting help?”
“If Reichert came for me, I would suspect they’ve been desperate for some time.”
“Do you think his techs have posted questions?”
“Have you answered any lately?”
Dana’s body stiffened. She placed her hands on her head and closed her eyes.
“Fuck.” For one, she had not been aware that Rachel knew of her on-line activities as nano helper to others, and, two, she had not realized she might have been aiding in the creation of another nano virus. How could I have been so stupid? she thought.
“We need to go through all of your recent replies, Doc.”
Dana opened her eyes. “How far back?”
“I suggest at least a year.”
“Shit. That has to be Reichert’s group.” The two were viewing a series of replies to several postings by the same author that Doc had worked on the previous November, two of which Dana had written while in the Wilson home in Cox’s Creek. As she placed each post into its new malevolent context, the pattern of questions and mistakes made by the originator became clear. They had been making viruses.
“I can trace the URL to the server domain easily. I’ll have to watchdog and wait for any new activity in order to nab the remote location.”
It was nearly ten p.m., yet both the nanotech and the hacker were surprised to hear the two failed attempts at the electrical door lock and then Grace’s entrance.
“Friggin’ piece of techno crap,” the blonde muttered as she dropped her briefcase on the floor.
The black dog that had been snoozing at the end of the couch waggled her sleepy body over to the doctor and nudged her for attention until she received some.
An involuntary smile crept across Dana’s face, and she swaggered over as well for a physical greeting, nudging the blonde until she received a kiss.
“I’m going home,” Rachel said, after sending her own e-mail address a message containing all of the information she would need in order to set up her own watchdog program. “You two enjoy your…um…bliss,” she said, and then was gone.
“You look better. Have you been drinking liquids?” the doctor asked her lover.
Dana took the time to scrutinize the normally hazel-green eyes, which were now a dark forest-green, indicating that her lover was either incredibly aroused or high. Dana convulsively swallowed.
“Grace?” she asked softly.
The physician began to remove her shoes and coat.
“Are you high?”
“No, I’m not high. But I did take a stimulant earlier.”
Dana’s dark brows furrowed.
“A couple. It’s no big deal,” she answered nonchalantly as she walked into the kitchen. Dana followed, a frown on her face.
“I thought we had agreed you weren’t going to use them. They’re not good for you.”
“A couple of stimulants aren’t going to kill me. It’s like coffee.” Grace opened the refrigerator and removed a package of turkey and a bottle of mayonnaise.
“It’s not like coffee. Grace, you’re a doctor, for God’s sake, and you’re comparing speed to coffee. Come on, you know you can’t toss that stuff into your body and not expect it to take its toll. Your body is a delicate balance of chemical reactions, and you can’t screw around with it.”
“I know that, goddammit!”
“Don’t you snap at me.”
“I don’t have a problem.”
“Yes, you do, Grace. Especially if you’re lying to me about it.”
“Wait a second. When did I lie?”
“Last night. You said you didn’t use them.”
“I only take them when I need them.”
“And how often is that?”
A shrug. Grace opened a bag of bread and began to slop mayonnaise on a slice.
“This weekend and today.” She finished assembling the sandwich and began to eat.
Dana wove her arms across her chest.
“And when else?”
“Once or twice last week.”
“Well, which is it? Once? Or twice?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Monday and Thursday.”
“And the week before that?”
Grace finished her sandwich. “I can’t recall.”
“Don’t you pull a Reagan on me. Next you’ll try a Clinton and tell me you put them in your mouth but never swallowed them.”
“That would be a Lewinsky.”
“Don’t you dare try humor with me right now. This is serious!”
“Don’t you get all pious with me, Dana. I don’t have a problem.”
“I never said you had a problem. Where are the pills? I want all of them.”
Grace had moved to the bathroom and begun washing her face. “They’re not here.”
“Where are they?”
“At work, in my desk.”
Dana worked her jaw.
“Tomorrow morning they’re going in the toilet. Do you understand? No more.”
“You’re acting like a mother.”
“No, I’m acting like your lover and partner. And I’m not going to let you destroy yourself without challenging you.”
“I’m not destroying myself–I’m surviving.”
“What are you surviving? Is it stress, or is it me?”
“It’s not you, Dana. Jesus. I was taking them for months while you were gone.”
Dana felt a rush of relief at the news that she was not the reason, despite the unsettling fact that it had been going on for longer than she had imagined.
“Is it the job?”
Grace looked away.
“I hate this discussion, Dana. What I do is important.”
“You can do a million things that you enjoy that are just as important.”
“I need to do this one.”
“That’s a five-year-old’s answer.”
“Because I said so.”
“And that’s your mother’s. What is your answer?”
They had moved into the bedroom, where Grace found a seat on the soft edge of the queen-sized mattress and was slipping out of her clothes.
“My dad is turning his practice over to a guy out of Louisville.”
“You said you didn’t want it.”
A long silence.
“Are you trying to prove something to him?”
“I can’t reject his practice, and my grandfather’s practice, and my great-grandfather’s practice to tool around in an emergency room all my life.”
“I don’t think you tool.” Dana sat next to her. “So you’re running the cancer program to show him.”
“I don’t think your father would ever want you to be this miserable. Grace, you need to give up the speed, and if that means the program too, you should let it go.”
“It’s not the program so much as the financial crap and dealing with Barbara all the time.”
“I thought Davenport was helping.”
“He is, but not enough.”
“Okay. After we find Reichert, we’ll look at redesigning your position and getting you more involved in the technical end. And maybe you can work a day or two more at the clinic.”
A long arm wrapped around the smaller, tense frame and squeezed.
“I love you, Grace,” the nanotech said as she nuzzled the yellow, silken hair.
A soft, trembling hand ran up the bare forearm encircling the smaller woman.
“And I’m crazy about you, Dana.”
“Lie down with me?”
A small laugh. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Dana scooted back onto the bed, slipped her body between the sheets, and waited with an arm extended for Grace to change into her pajamas and settle into her embrace. The blonde reached over and flipped the switch on the lamp before settling into the crook of the arm.
” Can you turn the light back on?”
Part Three – Acceleration
Grace still had yet to slip into the comforting blanket of sleep. Numbers were running laps in her mind and she was counting each pass. Looking to the black digits on the alarm clock, she read the display, 1:30. The warmth of the body behind her which could normally tug her into slumber was keeping her awake as well. Her strong heart was pounding and her limbs twitched with aches.
She crawled out from underneath the long arm folded around her waist and wandered out onto the back deck.
A few minutes later Doc woke empty-handed and went in search of her roommate. She found her sitting on the steps leading down to the beach, golden hair catching the dim light of the stars.
“Grace? You shouldn’t be out here by yourself,” she said taking a seat on the smooth wood next to her.
“Why, because of Reichert?”
The edgy doctor blewout a long stream of air.
“Are you feeling okay? You don’t look too good.”
“I’m tired, so tired I can’t sleep.”
Dark eyebrows shot up into darker bangs and sleepy eyes widened. “Whoa.”
“Sorry. I’m still wired, and knowing someone might pounce on us any second doesn’t help.”
“Want me to take a stab at short-circuiting you?”
A small laugh and a demure smile. “Would you do that for me?”
“Mmmmhmmm.” Dana hugged her lover. ” I would most definitely do that for you, but it has to be inside where it’s warm.”
A warm mouth met a very hot one, and the tall nanotech found the searing lips were eliciting a groan in her and a loss of breath. She leaned back, and this time the green eyes were dark and smoky with passion. Dana felt a shiver run down her spine and a current of her own circulating between her legs.
“Don’t make me beg you to take me,” the blonde whispered.
Dana lifted the smaller woman by the hips until the strong runner’s legs were wrapped tightly around her own waist.
Grace shifted, grinding their pelvises together, and pulled the dark head towards her so that mouths could move against each other.
Dana felt herself begin to lose balance as she was being devoured, and barely managed to control the fall to the Persian rug, the blonde on top of moving rhythmically against her before they were even situated.
Desperate, Dana tried to reach for the breasts swaying over her through the shirt but her hands were caught and slammed down against the carpet over her head and held there. She tensed momentarily, but then Grace’s presence and their bond reasserted itself and she relaxed, allowing her arousal to carry her along. Enjoy this, Doc, she told herself. Don’t end it. Just relax and enjoy it.
One small hand regripped her wrists and the other maneuvered to the tie of the cotton pants and began to work them off until toes were pushing them down. Her white shirt was pushed up to her shoulders and then Grace removed her own shorts and shirt. Skin moved against skin, frantic and fast.
Grace looked down at the dark features to make sure this was okay. Dana was breathing hard.
“I need more,” the doctor begged as she moved and released the arms she held.
“Okay,” Doc barely managed. The tangy smell of arousal was so strong she felt like she was drifting. She leaned forward to catch a swaying breast in her mouth and swirled the hard nipple between her teeth and tongue.
“Yes. Harder, please.”
Dana grabbed the other breast and pinched it hard while biting the one already in her mouth.
“Oh god, yes. More.”
The doctor pressed urgently against the nanotech’s belly, smearing it with wetness, gliding practically without friction, faster and faster. Dana’s skin was burning where her lover moved against her, the wetness and heat pouring from Grace, firing her own senses into overload.
Reaching up she again captured two large reddish nipples in her strong hands, playing the fading rough calluses over the sensitive flesh.
“Yes.” Both a moan and a request for more.
Obligingly, Dana twisted slightly and was rewarded with another moan of pleasure from the doctor.
Grace screamed out her release, startling her lover. Wow, Dana thought as the body above her continued to ride and spasm until another wave took her.
Before the last vestiges of release had vanished, Grace moved suddenly, her smaller body crushing against Dana’s. It seemed as if Grace were trying to meld them together into a single unit by sheer force of pressure. Soft lips roughly captured hers and Dana found herself unexpectedly responding to her lover’s aggressive demands. Previous memories were washed away in the searing fire of Grace’s mouth and tongue.
Sharp teeth nipped at the sensitive corners of her mouth before raking over her chin and feasting on the tender flesh of her throat. Tapered fingers tangled in her hair, drawing her head back, exposing more neck to Grace’s vigorous assault. Involuntarily she moaned and Grace paused, Dana looking up at her with eyes dark from arousal.
“S’okay,” she slurred. And it was.
Soft lips and hard teeth went to work on a sensitive nipple and again Dana felt a shudder of pleasure rip through her body, another moan following the motion. In a rational corner of her mind, she struggled to reconcile past and present, and then suddenly catching sight of green eyes…eyes full of lust…and love…she found the key, and surrendered the last locked bits of her soul to that love. To that trust.
The air between them changed, as if in silent acknowledgment of the victory they shared. Grace’s hands drifted lower, nails tracing counterpoints of sensation to the softness of questing lips. Dana felt her pulse quicken as she tried to anticipate which part of Grace’s body would reach its goal first, growing increasingly aroused as side trips were taken across her flesh, the motions starting and stopping unpredictably…maddeningly.
Grace used a hip and leveraged her legs open even farther, and before the significance registered on the nanotech, Grace had entered her, pulling another surge of voluptuous delight from the velvet depths. Just when Dana was sure she couldn’t take anymore, Grace darted forward, adding the warmth of breath and a soft wet heat to counterbalance her own. Vocalizing the effect of the sudden increase in pleasure, she was startled to hear herself moan.
Displaying an intensity she’d never allowed herself to feel before, Dana arched into Grace’s demanding mouth, finding her release as swiftly and as hard as the doctor had found hers.
And still they weren’t finished. Reveling in the new sensations and freedom Dana turned the tables on her lover, pinning the doctor’s hands over her head in an effortless one-handed grip. Pausing to regain her equilibrium, she drank in the sights and sounds of Grace’s excitement. The slight hitch in the uneven breathing, the light sheen of perspiration that glistened along a fair brow and creamy shoulders…and the eyes…Dana swore she could lose herself in the emerald depths forever.
Taking her cue from Grace’s earlier behavior and the continued fire of passion clearly visible on her lover’s face, Dana leaned over and whispered in a delicate ear, briefly nibbling on a lobe before exhaling the words.
“What do you need, Grace?”
Without waiting for an answer, she nibbled her way across to the other ear, feeling the jump in Grace’s heart rate as she mouthed a pulse point. The doctor twisted, thrusting her hips into Dana’s – as if trying to say with her body what she could not with words.
“You’ve been holding back. I know you need more. Tell me what you need from me. I want to give it to you.” She knew what Grace was afraid to ask, wanted to hear her lover say the words that would make them equals in this final frontier.
“I’m ready – I promise.”
“God, Dana, I need you to ..”
The blonde continued to writhe under her, lifting her head to roughly capture Dana’s mouth, before dropping back against the floor, hair splaying to the sides.
“To what? What can I give you?” Dana bit down on Grace’s shoulder.
Need won over fear, and a voice rough with want rasped. “Fuck me, Dana.”
Startled she blinked, inexperience adding to her confusion before realizing that Grace’s need was in the how, not in the mechanics.
Twining her hands in Grace’s long tresses, she tilted her lover’s head back, opening the creamy skin to her teeth and mouth, much as her own had been earlier.
Grace’s newly-freed hands roamed over her back, nails scoring trails of sensation down the length of her spine. She felt the doctor grip her buttocks and push up into her, contrasting colors of curls tugging against each other. To Dana the friction was delicious and she squirmed to make the connection tighter, giving Grace what she wanted at the same time.
She felt Grace’s hands stroking, licking like fire, like ice everywhere on her body, urging her on. Dana let out an uninhibited moan, enjoying the harmony as it combined with the whimpers and moans of her lover.
When Grace bucked under her , Dana moved along the bone of a naked shoulder, kissing and sucking her skin until she found Grace’s breast and took it into her mouth. Alternating nips and licks, she devoured Grace’s body, losing track of her own body’s reactions as she was subsumed by Grace’s passion.
Again and again they took each other to the brink and beyond, the energy released by one fueling the other in a perfect cycle of lust and love, until the banished demons driving Grace had laid to rest the ghosts of Dana’s past, bringing them both to rest.
Dana felt a sense of peace and belonging steal across her, as though Grace was part of her. She never suspected that by taking Grace — in being taken — giving would be the result.
The lovers were both lying flat on their backs, drained by a surfeit of sensuality and staring at the ceiling while their pulses and breathing returned to normal.
“Thanks for waiting.”
“Anytime,” the doctor sighed, more relaxed and satisfied than she had been in years, let alone days. “Good things come to those that wait.”
“I didn’t think I could ever enjoy something that intense.”
Grace took the long fingers into her hand and played with them, then lifted them to her mouth and gently kissed each knuckle, her own scent lingering on the dark skin.
“I love you, Dana.”
“I hope so,” the nanotech replied with a chuckle. A moment later when she looked over, green eyes were closed and the deep rhythmic breathing of sleep had finally overtaken the doctor.
Part Four – Theoretical Displacement
The lovers were lying entangled under the comforting warmth of a churn-dash quilt, hand-stitched with scraps and a love of beauty and precision. The pale morning rays of the sun tiptoed around the bedroom, careful not to wake the sleeping forms.
And then the phone rang.
A long, bare arm gave up its hold and shot out from under the covers to the nightstand, blindly finding the earpiece and depressing the talk button, and then drawing back into the warmth.
“Hello,” Dana mumbled, unable to open her heavy-lidded eyes.
“Ah, Doc.” Rachel’s familiar voice sounded relieved.
“Why aren’t you guys at work today?”
“What time is it?”
Blue eyes shot open and looked over at the dead-to-the-world body lying beside her. Dana lifted her watch from the table and took a moment to squint at the numbers.
“Oops. We’ll be in in an hour.”
“Yeah, well, judging from Davenport’s whining, you’re already way too late.”
“What’s his problem?”
“I guess Queenie was supposed to give the Buchler some numbers early this morning.”
Dana looked over and watched a smile curl the sleeping lips. This has not been a good week for her, she thought.
“Connect me with Davenport, will you?”
“Sure, Doc, hold on.” Dava listened to the ringing of the transfer and then heard the stress-filled voice of Davenport.
“Greyson,” he answered tentatively.
“Greyson, this is Dana Papadopolis. I hear that Dr. Buchler is looking for some information from Dr. Wilson.”
“Thank God. Yes, she’s here in my office as we speak. Want to talk to her?”
Ooooh, God, she hated talking to Barbara. She gritted her teeth.
“Okay.” A shiver.
“Ms. Papadopolis?” Barbara said in her clipped, stifled manner.
“Is Grace there?”
Dana wanted to growl. She did not like the fact that Barbara called her lover by her first name.
“She’s not available. But she asked me to ask if you checked your e-mail this morning. She assures me she sent you the information last night.” It was probably true.
“No. I received an e-mail from her which referred to an
attachment. However, there was no attachment.”
“Hmmm, that’s strange.” Dana looked down at her lover. She decided Grace had probably been high enough the previous evening to have forgotten that important detail.
“I am already late for a meeting with the Board, and I need those numbers so that I can incorporate them into my budget presentation. This is a very high-profile project, Ms. Papadopolis, and it needs to be run with that in mind. Is that clear?”
Dana could tell that Dr. Buchler was already beyond irritated with Grace.
“Go back to your office. I’ll make sure that they’re e-mailed to you by the time you get there,” she replied steadily as she crawled out from under the warm covers and found Grace’s short, blue robe to wear. Her computer was in sleep mode, and she awoke it with a voice command. She then connected to the Yale proxy server and hacked her way into Grace’s working files. She found the last file Grace had been working on and electronically sent it to Dr. Buchler.
“Man, what a total bitch,” she mumbled to herself as she scooped aromatic grounds into the coffeemaker. Once the scent of the brew began to fill the air, she went to the bedroom to wake her sleeping partner.
“Hey, there, Graaaace,” she whispered into a perfectly-lobed ear. “It’s time to get up.”
The doctor stirred and stretched without opening her eyes. Finally, the puffy lids opened, and hazel eyes looked confusedly around the room.
“How did I get here? Last thing I remember….”
“I carried you.”
“Ooooh.” Dana was rewarded with a steady smile. She began to smirk.
“You’re late for work, Chipmunk.”
“I know.” She stretched lazily. “But I don’t care.”
“My, my, that’s a nice change. But I told Rachel we’d be in in an hour.”
“You called in for me?”
“Not really. She called us. Seems that you forgot to attach something when you e-mailed Barbara last night.”
The color drained from Grace’s face.
“I already talked to Barbara and took care of it,” Dana said, quickly responding to the pallor. “She’s happy now.”
“She’s never happy, Dana. Shit, I hate when I do that.”
“Everybody does that, babe. Plus, I think you were probably a little too wired to think straight last night.” Dana was sitting with her arm planted next to Grace’s hip and looking down fondly at the young woman. Grace’s eyes roamed over the exposed skin and firm muscles. A small, soft hand reached up and caressed a high cheekbone. The residual static from the current that had run between the two the previous evening lingered in the touch.
“We have an hour,” Grace suggested.
“Do you know what my favorite part of the day is?” Dana asked as she slid her hand into the biometric reader at the door to the nano floor.
“Nope. That’s yours.”
“Okay, what’s your favorite part of the day?” They both walked through the security door once they had received the green light.
“I’m not telling.”
“You have to guess.” The towering nanotech bumped her shoulder against her administrator.
“Waking me up?” the doctor tried.
“Umm, that was nice today, but not usually that pleasant, so no.”
“Getting me to sleep?” A bump back.
“Your first cup of coffee?”
“Ooooh, that’s awfully good too, but no.”
“I have no idea, Dana.”
Dana smiled wickedly.
“How about the elevator ride? You always like that,” the doctor shot sarcastically. She received an irritated look in return. They approached Grace’s office.
“You go into your office and think about it really hard, little girl, while I go and find my people and see how much they accomplished in my absence.”
“Little girl?” Grace’s body postured in protest. Dana winked and walked away. She had gotten no further than the entrance to the conference room she called home when she heard a “pssst” from across the hall. When she turned to investigate, she caught sight of Rachel waving her over to the computer lab. The tall nanotech followed as her comrade led her into the computer room.
“I have something for you.” The hacker seemed excited.
“Have you replicated the attachment mechanism already?”
“No, but I’ve located that party you were interested in finding.”
“When?” The humor had left her body.
“Twenty minutes ago. I’ve just received a notification from my system at home.”
“Where?” Dana’s body was beginning to tremble with the release of adrenaline.
Dana began to curse under her breath.
“I thought you’d be happy about this, Doc.”
“Ah-hah!” Grace exclaimed, poking her head into the room. “The car ride in,” she said, with a bright, cheerful smile.
She was regarded with humorless blue eyes and knew immediately that something was wrong.
“We found Reichert, Gracie,” Rachel explained.
“Already.” Grace tried not to sound as uncomfortable as she felt. She looked to her partner for emotional reassurance but realized Dana was as surprised as she. Dana looked down at her shoes and studied her feet.
“Where is he?” Grace asked.
“His lab is in San Fran,” Rachel answered. “Do you want to see the post, Doc?”
Dana nodded. Rachel pulled up the newest posting, and Doc donned her glasses to read the treatise. Immediately she knew where the program stood by what they did not know.
“They go through a proxy server behind a firewall, so they have a security computer that logged the computer and user that made the post. I went into the network and found the computer listed in the security log and went through the files as well. It’s pretty darned interesting.”
Dana scanned through the file names that Rachel had downloaded. The files consisted primarily of saved memos.
“See this latest one?” Dana pointed out the text to Grace. “They can’t complete the replication process once the masters are inside the cell. We never posted anything about that because we didn’t replicate when we destroyed the Betas. I guess it was fortunate that we didn’t have much time, or they would probably already be manufacturing viruses. The self-replication was the most difficult challenge I ran across.”
“That’s why they need you.”
Dana looked up at Rachel and nodded sullenly.
“So what’s the problem?” Rachel persisted.
“How long does it take to get to San Francisco?” the raven-haired techie asked.
“Eight hours, at the most,” Rachel responded.
“Is that by plane?”
Dana crossed her arms across her chest.
“How long by car?”
“For freakin’ ever,” the hacker responded. “You aren’t suggesting we drive, are you?”
“I don’t fly.”
“What?!” Dana’s two companions said in unison.
“I don’t fly.”
“Dana, it would take a week to drive cross-country, if we were lucky. We’d have to go through the mountains, and there’s been a lot of snow already.”
“I don’t fly,” Dana said flatly and left the computer center.
“You know, your girlfriend has been a real pain in my ass lately,” the hacker pointed out with irritation. “I suggest you talk some sense into her. Because I’m not driving to California listening to her music.”
“I’ll try,” Grace replied and sighed.
Grace spent an hour scouring the floor, searching for Dana, but she could not find her. Finally, when she had given up and returned to her own office, she found her lover seated on the couch, staring at black sneakers and submerged in thought.
“Dana?” When she refused to look up, Grace responded by closing the door and kneeling in front of her. She placed her hands on the denim covering the nanotech’s knees and spoke softly. “What’s going on with you, Dana?”
“I’m going somewhere I don’t want to go, Grace.”
“To San Francisco?”
The doctor was at a loss. “Why won’t you fly?”
Dana shook her head.
“Please tell me.” Grace tenderly lifted Dana’s chin so that the two were eye-to-eye. “You trust me, don’t you?”
“Of course. This isn’t about trust.”
“Have you flown before?” The muscular body tensed and shifted under her gaze.
“Did something happen?”
“Grace…I don’t want to….”
But the green eyes would not let the child hide.
“Ruth took me to Florida once to see her parents. We flew.”
“And…?” The small hands squeezed Dana’s kneecaps for reassurance.
“And I don’t have fond memories of it.”
“Because of Ruth?”
“No, because the landing gear wouldn’t come down, and we had to circle the airport until they could manually lower it,” Dana said testily.
“Okay,” the doctor said slowly. “How old were you?”
“You were scared?”
“Yes, I was scared. I was afraid I was going to die. But what I remember most is that Ruth was angry and yelling at me to stop crying and to shut up.”
Grace recognized the hurt in the pale blue eyes and automatically encircled her with her arms.
“I hate thinking about her,” Dana whispered into Grace’s shoulder. Grace squeezed her harder.
“Don’t let her cripple you any longer, Dana,” Grace whispered back, filled with a hatred she had never before experienced, for a woman she had never even met.
Part Five – Coplanar Motion
Dana was pacing a path in the carpet that lined the large glass windows allowing the waiting passengers to view the docking of the airplanes to the terminal. Her hands were beating a rhythm on her thighs. Then she stopped, stared at the plane, breathed in deeply, then sighed. A moment passed and then she resumed her pacing.
Grace, seated in an uncomfortable vinyl chair, looked up from her magazine and watched her lover’s discomfort. It was distorting her normally calm persona. Dana had embarked on her fifth cycle of pacing, and she was become more agitated each time. The rhythm of her hands had progressed from the Waltz to the Cha-Cha.
They were catching the three-thirty out of Bradley International Airport with a transfer to another plane in Detroit. The two had made a deal–if Grace let Dana toss out her pills, Dana would try to fly to San Francisco–a basic Quid Pro Quo. agreement. Grace was a bit surprised that it was easier for her to give up the pills than for Dana to agree to fly, and now she was beginning to see just how deeply the tentacles of Dana’s fear extended.
“Jesus! Why do they make us wait so freaking long?”
“Come, sit Dana. It will only be a few more minutes.”
“It’s stupid that they make us arrive so early. It’s torture.”
“You should have taken the Valium.”
“Stop pushing pills on me, Grace!” the nanotech snapped. “I’m not a junkie.”
Grace did her best not to take the remark personally, but it was hard.
Dana turned back to the window. “And where the hell is Rachel?”
“You gave her a pretty large list, Dana. Cut her some slack.”
Dana turned to look at her friend, and immediately her face eased in its harshness. She walked over to Grace and sat down in the chair adjoining the doctor’s.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by what I said.”
“No, it’s not. I’m sorry.”
“Let’s drop it.”
“I don’t think you’re a junkie, Grace.”
“Dana, this is definitely not the place to talk about this,” the doctor said looking around at the other waiting passengers.
Dana’s eyes followed the same path as her lover’s.
“Grace, you shouldn’t be ashamed of something like this. It happens to lots of people in high stress jobs. A lot of doctors from what I’ve read lately.”
“Not now, Dana. Ah, here’s Rach,” Grace said quickly scrambling to her feet and walking over to greet the hacker. Rachel was dressed in faded black jeans, a MIT sweatshirt, and blue don’t-fuck-with-me sunglasses. She carried her ticket in her hand and had two large carry-on bags distributed evenly on each shoulder. Grace helped her with one of them and led her over to the nanotech.
“A word of warning. She’s really uncomfortable about this flying business, so if you can think of anything to help her with it, I would appreciate it,” Grace explained to the hacker.
Rachel dropped her bag heavily and slouched into the chair next to Doc.
“So, I hear you’re scared shitless of flying, Doc?”
Dana surveyed the hacker and then looked away, a scowl on her face.
“Did you ever see that movie ‘Alive’?” Rachel asked.
“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” Dana mumbled and wiped her sweaty palms on her thighs.
“Well, Doc, I just want you to know that if the need should arise, you can eat me.”
When Doc turned to face the hacker she was smiling.
“I appreciate the offer, Rach.”
“I’m sure Queenie wouldn’t mind you eating her either, would ya?”
Dana looked over at the blushing doctor and gave her that crooked little smirk.
“No, I don’t mind,” Grace managed.
“Well you two can eat me too if need be,” Dana replied.
“Yeah, but with Queenie’s appetite there won’t be any left for me.”
“This conversation is sick,” Grace commented getting up and walking over to badger the desk clerk.
“Did you get everything we needed?” Dana asked her compadre of double entendre.
“Of course, but getting the layout was a pain in the ass. I have the Virtus layout of the building, as well as the walk-through of the innards, but the program it was created in is old and it tends to freeze-up. You can go through it while we are in the air if you like.”
“What did you find out about security?”
“Very little other than the name of the contractor they use. We’ll actually have to survey the operation for ourselves. I expect it will take most of the day. I thought once we were in we would basically do what we did last time.”
Dana nodded. “And then I will find Reichert.”
“And what are you planning to do to him?” the hacker asked as she shoved a piece of Bubbalicious into her mouth.
Dana liked the sweet fruity smell and accepted the wrapped cube that was offered.
“Gum helps pop your ears when you get up there. Otherwise the cabin pressurization makes you feel funny and can give you a headache.”
“Thanks,” Dana replied.
Grace returned. “They will begin boarding in ten minutes. We get to board first because we are in first class.”
“Which means we get our booze first too,” Rachel added.
Dana nodded and was doing her best to cover the trembling that originated in her trunk and emanated through her limbs. Grace slipped a hand into hers.
“You’re freezing, Dana,” she remarked and began to rub the larger hands.
“You two going to join the mile high club up there?” Rachel asked.
“I’m already a member,” Grace replied before she could stop herself. Rachel began to choke on her gum.
“What’s the mile high club?” Dana asked as she slapped the hacker’s back hard, dislodging the gum which landed on the floor and rolled to the window.
Rachel looked away from her friends. “Nothing.”
“Nothing, Dana. It’s nothing,” the doctor answered.
Rachel began to chuckle as she walked over to the garbage can and dropped her used piece in. She added two fresh ones to her mouth and then returned to her seat.
“You a member too, Rach?” Dana asked curiously.
“Yep, an active, card-carrying member. Why, you interested?”
“Nah, I’m not the club type.”
God I hope we board soon, Grace thought to herself. “Do you have to use the bathroom or anything, Dana?”
“I don’t have to, but I prefer to,” Dana replied with a smirk.
“Do you need to? Because airplane toilets are not the best, even in first class.”
“I’m fine,” Dana replied. “Stop babying me.”
“I’m not babying you.”
“I just need to get it over with, and then I’ll be fine.”
“Okay.” Grace squeezed her hand and was rewarded with a nervous smile. Then she felt the faintest of trembles in the long bony fingers.
They had been airborne for twenty minutes. Grace studied the large saucer-sized blue eyes staring out of the window at the ground as the plane left Earth. She needed to get Dana to relax her hold on her hand. It was numb, so it no longer hurt, but being a doctor she knew circulation needed to be restored at some point soon. As she wiggled free she congratulated herself for thinking of giving Dana the window seat. It was the best idea of the day.
Rachel was booting up her laptop and watching the two. She shook her head with amusement at the gawking, wonder of the nanotech. A petite blonde flight attendant with short layered hair in a sky-blue uniform leaned over the hacker’s shoulder.
“Can I get you anything ma’am?” she asked.
Rachel looked over into the rosy cheeks. “That depends on what you are offering.”
The young woman straightened. “Coffee, soda, or something harder if you would like.”
“Something harder, please, your choice,” Rachel replied with her own version of a smirk.
Grace nudged her from the middle seat. “Behave yourself.”
“I am, believe me I am.”
“There you go, Mrs. Gates,” she said handing Rachel a Bloody Mary.
Rachel’s smirk became a brilliant smile. She got such a thrill out of using the identity of Bill Gate’s second wife. And the fact that the crew usually studied the passenger list was a plus. “My secretary here would like a Coke if you have one,” Rachel ordered. “And my step-daughter would like a milk.”
Dana looked over having caught that there was a conversation going on.
“Excuse me miss, do you have any applications for the mile high club?” Dana asked.
Tomato juice and vodka spewed forth from the hacker’s main orifice. Grace’s face turned bright red.
“I’ll see what I can do for you,” the flight attendant replied and smiled seductively at Bill Gates’ daughter.
“Cool,” Dana remarked and took the milk she handed her.
“I’m going to become a member too,” Dana excitedly told her companions.
“No your not,” Grace said sternly and watched as the stewardess moved to help clean up Mrs. Gates.
“Why not, you’re a member?” Dana asked a little miffed.
“Dana be quiet!” Grace said gruffly, her face neon pink.
“I’m fine now, thank you,” Rachel told the young woman who was blotting her with a towel. “I’ll just take another of these,” she said holding up her empty cup.
Grace leaned over to Dana and whispered in her ear exactly what becoming a member of the club consisted of doing. And for Dana’s part, despite a silly grin, she did not blush at what she realized was being offered to her by the young attendant. “Oh” was all she said and returned to the window. But her hand settled on Grace’s thigh and lightly stroked. Grace leaned into Dana’s shoulder and rested her head there. She was still tired from the previous evening and along with the steady movement of the aircraft, the hum of the engines, and the warmth of the body next to her, she began to doze.
“A cute, lesbian flight attendant, a kickin’ Bloody Mary, and a first class ticket. This has to be the best flight I’ve been on in a long time,” the hacker exclaimed.
During the second flight, somewhere over the Rockies, the turbulence required all of the passengers to wear their seat belts. The sky was dark, and without anything to look at, Dana had become somewhat edgy. Rachel was seated across the aisle from them, the plane being a smaller, different design, deeply engrossed in her computer. The lights were low and a movie played on a small screen in front of them–a recent remake of an old Brad Pitt film with the newest up-and-coming star playing Pitt’s role.
Grace had acquired a blanket for the chill and had it draped across her legs.
“Grace,” Dana whispered nervously. The plane shifted abruptly for the umpteenth time.
Grace looked over at her friend in the dim light. “It’s okay, Dana. It is very normal to encounter turbulence over the mountains.” But her words did not ease the visage of worry from Dana. She knew she needed to make this flying experience different from Dana’s first and at the moment could only think of one way to do it. She took her lover’s left hand and pulled it under the blanket, settling it on the inside of her right thigh. Blue eyes became saucer-sized once again, but for a different kind of awe.
“Being in a club isn’t worth a damn if you can’t bring in new recruits,” Grace mumbled as she tilted closer to Dana’s mouth. She was met with a tentative kiss and watched the blue eyes survey their surroundings. A hand to the nanotech’s cheek brought the eyes’ attention to where Grace wanted it, her. The plane dropped again causing the kiss to deepen. A few more good bumps, and Dana was well on her way to becoming a member in her first club since the Brownies in first grade.
Part Six – Displacement
The trio checked into the Savoy three blocks from Union Square around nine-thirty–all famished and exhausted–and not sure as to what to do. Well, that was not entirely true; Rachel was sure. She had plans, and she was not that tired.
“I’m going out, kids,” the hacker said, following the doctor into the room.
“Where ya going, Rach?” Grace asked as she went back to her suitcase and unpacked a shirt for sleeping.
Dana looked up from her duffel.
“Just out, Ma,” Rachel said with a sly grin. “Can I have the keys?” she asked Dana. The nano tech picked up the rental car keys and lofted them across the room at her friend. “Don’t wait up,” Rachel said and withdrew from the room.
Dana and Grace exchanged a knowing glance and then proceeded to undress for bed themselves.
“Do you want to go out too?” Grace asked, catching the look of interest on Dana’s angled face.
“I’m hungry.” The doctor slipped under the crisp sheets and watched as Dana pulled on her gray cotton shorts and a sleeveless V-neck T-shirt. Just watching the movement of Dana dressing turned her on.
“We could order room service,” Dana suggested. She climbed under the covers, moving toward Grace until her bare legs were touching the doctor’s. “Sheets are cold,” she commented with a shiver and warmed her feet on her lover’s calves.
“Arghhh, don’t do that.” Grace playfully kicked the cold feet off her legs.
“But I’m cold,” Dana complained, taking her into a vice-grip and pulling her on top of the long frame of her own body. “Good thang I gots me a chipmunk hand-warmer,” Dana said as she slid her cold hands under the doctor’s shirt and onto her back.
“Oh, my God!” Grace said, trying to squirm free of the icicles Dana called hands. Eventually she twisted enough, or Dana relented.
“We really should eat,” Grace suggested, finding herself suddenly wrapped under the long, sinewy body of her nano tech.
“We are,” Dana said around a mouthful of her lover’s ear.
“I mean food,” the doctor sighed. “Ah, hell, never mind,” and she caught the nano tech’s mouth fully and began to devour her.
For the third day in a row, Dana awoke first and nudged her companion out of dreamland. She enjoyed watching the sleepy look of confusion as the green eyes blearily took in the surroundings and tried to figure out where she was.
“I’m hungry” were the first words from the doctor’s mouth. “Let’s go eat.”
Well, she was never a slow starter. “We do need to keep a low profile, Grace.”
“Since when does eating constitute a high profile?”
“Since you were entered in the Guinness Book for emptying the Denny’s all-you-can-eat breakfast bar.”
“Ha, ha, very funny. That never happened.”
“That’s not what Joy says.”
“Joy is full of shit.”
Dana grinned. “Okay, we’ll eat out, but you have to promise me that it’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
Grace scooted to the edge of the bed and settled her feet on the floor. “You know, Dana, sometimes you’re as bad as Joy.”
“I like Joy.”
“I know you do. And she talks to you more than she does me now.”
“Yeah, well, you get to talk to your mom and Dick-uh.”
Grace began to laugh as shewalked to the bathroom. “Like that’s a treat.”
Dana called the room next door to see if Rachel had indeed made it back. She had, and apparently not alone, from the murmuring voices. She offered the hacker breakfast, which was declined after a few slurping noises that caused Dana to raise an eyebrow. She joined Grace in the shower.
“I called Rachel,” she said, sliding the door closed and squinting at the spray of water as it bounced off the shorter woman’s head and into her face.
“She made it back. That’s good. Is she coming?”
Dana smirked. “She has company.”
“Really?” Grace looked up through white bubbles of shampoo running down her face.
“Wow. I never knew Rachel to actually…you know.”
Grace turned into the water and smiled. “That’s cool.”
“Stop saying that,” Grace said into the water.
“Come on, you. Let me in there before all the hot water’s gone.”
“It’s a hotel, Dana. There is no hot water limit.”
“Uh-huh. Let me in anyway.”
Grace poked her in the side but moved out of the way, then went so far as to lather her back while Dana washed her hair. Dana still sported several large, purple bruises on her ribs and her right hip, apparently from landing on the concrete floor when she had been tossed into the cellar four nights earlier. Grace wondered where the dark-haired woman’s emotional resilience came from. She bounced back time and again from tragedy and emotional torture and still remained–dare she say–lovable and loving. And so damned funny, even when she didn’t mean to be.
Grace found herself drifting back to the awkwardness of their first attempts at lovemaking, the giddiness of it, the vomiting, and how it had progressed to this wonderful, relaxed but still curl-your-toes stuff that was taking place so regularly between the sheets that half the time Grace thought she should be videotaping it.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Blue eyes regarded her.
“Hmmm. Just thinking.”
“Dana, you are truly a…a….”
“Yep, that I am. We need to get going, Grace. Because I figure it will take you two hours to eat, and I need to get some things and get to work while you and Rachel survey the laboratory and work out security and timing.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to strategize and fill in a few holes.”
“Dana, you are so enigmatic at times. What are you going to strategize? Why not just do what you did last time, cook up some CH5 and acidify the place?”
“I don’t think ‘acidify’ is a word, Grace. And I want to try something different. You and Rachel are always saying I don’t have an imagination.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “What are you thinking about doing?”
“Well, I don’t have enough time to make up the CH5, because I would need access to the nano manipulator for at least six hours to do that, so I think I’m going to make some Aqua Regia.”
“You’re going to use aftershave?”
Dana laughed. “Not Aqua Velva. Aqua Regia is a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid. It’s the strongest uncomplexed acid I can make, and it’s easy to make as well. I’ll go over to the hardware store and buy the HCl and HNO3. I’ll mix it up here while you two are out.”
“What is the atomizer for?”
“To dispense the acid. I’ll use it to spray the AR on my target, and then it’ll react. It should be powerful enough to destroy the nano machines they may have created as well as mummify all of their circuit boards and discs. The cool thing is that it keeps reacting until the object is mush. The only problem is that it releases some free chlorine when it reacts, but I’ll just wear the respirator for that. And I’ll have to work a lot faster this time. I need to try to do all of the damage at once and in one place so I can get the hell out of there before I get locked in the lab when the chemical-spill detection alarms go off. And I’m not going to blow up the building this time either.”
“I think it would draw too much attention.”
“You’re probably right,” Grace said sarcastically.
“I need Rachel to destroy their network in case anyone has data stored on remote hard drives…something that will download and attack the files as soon as they log on.”
“And that should take care of it.”
“No, Grace, and then I wait for Reichert to show, and finish this.”
“–I’ve thought about this a long time, and it’s decided. He’ll never leave us alone, especially after I destroy his lab.”
Grace scowled and appeared troubled.
“I shouldn’t have told you.”
“It’s just that…well, it’s so calculated…to take a life, Dana…like that.”
“You don’t believe in capital punishment?”
“Do you? What if that had been your sentence, Dana? What a mistake that would have been!”
Dana’s face turned to stone. “Are you comparing me to Reichert, Grace?”
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“Sounds like it to me,” the nano tech said defensively and climbed out of the shower, grabbing a towel from the rack mounted to the tile.
“I meant you can’t be the victim, the judge, and the executioner, and make sound decisions about a man’s life.”
“Why not? I know more about his crimes than anyone else does.”
“Because it’s not right!” Grace declared, following her out of the bathroom and wrapping herself in a towel.
“This is war, Grace, not a game of capture-the-flag. Reichert kills people and is planning on killing more. He wanted me dead and was going after you as well. I can’t take a chance by letting him live.”
“That’s not your decision to make!” the doctor said, grabbing the meaty muscle of Dana’s arm.
Dana yanked her arm away. “Get dressed if you want something to eat.”
Dana carried the vessel of Aqua Regia, basically three parts concentrated hydrochloric acid to one part concentrated nitric acid, in her backpack. Her black ski mask was pulled down over her face; in fact, every inch of her was covered in black. She punched in the code at the security panel of the loading-dock entrance and slipped into the building.
“Why do you think she has to do this by herself this time?” Grace asked as she watched through binoculars from a warehouse parking lot as Dana disappeared.
Rachel looked up from her laptop screen where she was on-line monitoring Dana via the security cameras. “She’s trying to protect us.”
Grace chewed on that. She had to admit she really didn’t want to be in the building. And if she were the one sneaking around, in all likelihood she would have to pee, just like every time she played hide-and-seek when she was a kid. Grace cursed her bladder. But she worried about Dana…she worried that maybe she would lose control, or hurt someone or–worse–herself.
Dana crept down the hallway, wary of the security camera and the reaction of the lights to her movement. Based on the virtual map which she had walked through several times in her hotel room, the laboratory was only twenty paces or more down the hallway on her left. A computer station was across the hall, and another thirty paces away were the administrative offices. But this time she had no idea who sat where, or who was even involved in which aspects of the program, so she had to destroy all of the computers.
She started with the offices, carrying each computer and any discs she could find into the nano laboratory, where she placed them on the laboratory benches. Then she began ripping the plastic protective covers off the machines, exposing the circuit boards. She found the containers that presumably held the nano machines and set them on the bench as well. She removed the metal panel covering the hardware to the nano manipulator where they cooked up their machines, and exposed the circuit boards that controlled the billion-dollar instruments. Then she moved over to the computer center and tore off the protective covering to the server. Rachel was to add a virus to the larger company server once Dana was out of there. But once she did, the automated locks would freeze, and the building would become impenetrable and inescapable.
She returned to the lab, slid the respirator over her face, and then began spraying the acid over her haul, dousing everything more than she probably needed to. She watched as the metal and plastic turned yellow, melting into unrecognizable gunk. Besides the hissing of the reactions, she listened to her own tinny breathing through the respirator as she worked, rushing around the tables to the wall. She ran over to the other room and doused the server and a laptop she had missed the first time as well as several back-up discs on a shelf and a couple of piles of paper she did not bother to read. The sound of her breathing was suddenly replaced by a shrill siren, indicating that the chlorine vapors had set off an alarm. That was her unmistakable cue to get out of there.
“Jesus, Dana, you’re soa king wet!” Grace exclaimed. She was drenched with sweat and smelled like a swimming pool. The acrid odor was so strong that Grace’s eyes began to water and her throat burned.
Standing next to the car, Dana stripped out of her clothes and shoved them into a plastic garbage bag. Dressed in only her underwear, she came back around to Grace’s side and put on the sweatshirt and jeans handed to her by the doctor.
Rachel blew out a bubble. “Getting kind of slow in your old age, Doc.”
“Bite me,” she said, but without a hint of humor. A darkness shrouded her eyes, a blackness that Grace could not ignore.
“Send that virus off, Rachel,” she ordered.
Rachel spoke into her mouthpiece and launched the debilitating electronic acid from her laptap through a cellular link. Soon all of the lights went off in the building. And then the three waited, sitting silently in the car, watching the emergency vehicles and police cruisers arrive.
Dana watched through her electronic binoculars, but Reichert never showed. Grace was relieved.
“Dana,” Grace said gently as the nano tech stewed.
Dana was more than disappointed, she was in full rage.
“Maybe he’s not back from the East Coast,” Grace commented a bit hesitantly.
“We should get out of here, Doc,” Rachel commented. “The cops will be running sweeps pretty soon.”
Dana did not stir or take her eyes from the building.
“Dana?” Grace gently touched her and discovered Dana was burning up and trembling.
“The fucker knows I’m here. That’s why he’s not showing.”
“At least we killed his program. If he’s on the network, his files will be eaten, right? Nothing will be left.”
“Was anyone on the network when you launched?” Dana asked the hacker.
“I have to check my cache.”
“Then check it!”
“Dana?” Grace said. “Calm down.”
Dana ignored her lover. “There! He’s here!” Dana said loudly on an excited breath. She could not believe her eyes. He had showed, and he was not happy.
She felt the unbridled excitement of a hunter who had waited in a stand for far too long, unable to believe her luck as the buck walked right into her sights. She handed the glasses to Grace as she pointed him out.
Reichert yelled and waved his arms violently at the security and emergency workers. And then he looked around, scanning the distance for Dana.
The nano tech was loving it. She began to chuckle, a deep and devious sound. It scared Grace, and it even scared Rachel. From that point on, they were too frightened to say anything to Doc.
Dana slipped through the back door of the small home located in the suburbs north of San Francisco. It appeared to be a quiet community, not unlike Henry Taxson’s outside of D.C.. She moved silently as she crossed the floor. He was on the phone in his posh living room, his tenor voice shaking with rage and, she hoped, fear. And then he was silent, listening.
“Did you see the look in her eyes?” Grace finally broke the silence in the car.
“Grace, don’t go there.”
“She’s going to kill him.”
“What if she does, Grace? He’s a butcher.”
“But she’s not.”
“Grace, stay in the car!” Rachel yelled and reached back, but she was too late. The doctor was already sneaking up to the house.
Dana had Reichert on his back, a knee planted on his chest. His arms were at strange angles from his scrawny body, and she was holding a steak knife to his throat. His breaths were coming out in labored gasps. The smell of urine wafted toward Grace, who was moving cautiously toward the spectacle.
“Dana, stop,” she meant to yell, but it came out in a whisper. With a painful slowness, Dana looked at her. There was no soul behind those eyes.
The interruption was just enough, and Reichert seized the chance to roll his captor off his body. Dana reached over with a swipe and imbedded the knife in his shoulder, causing him to scream.
“Oh, my God!” Grace cried at the writhing man bleeding on the white shag carpet. Grace pulled Dana to her feet and shoved her away from Reichert toward the door.
Dana watched, furious at Grace, while the doctor knelt next to the bleeding man and began to pack his wound with his shirt.
“Don’t help him, Grace,” Dana growled. Reichert was out cold.
“I have to, Dana. It’s not a choice for me.” She got up and shoved Dana again toward the back door, pushing her until they were both outside in the damp coolness. She forced the nano tech into the car and slammed the door. Grace ran to the trunk and grabbed the first-aid supplies that she had brought along just in case something happened to Dana. Her mind and body were set on automatic, the same way she felt–or did not feel–during those long hours of mayhem in the ER. She returned to the house, intent on saving Dana’s victim.
“You should have let him die,” Dana mumbled on the way to the airport.
Grace did not say anything.
“Not now, Dana, please.”
While driving, Rachel chewed on her nail, a habit she had conquered through three years of hypnosis.
Dana stared out the window, aching with guilt for causing the tears that were flowing down her lover’s cheeks and for leaving Reichert in the world to live another day.
Three long days passed in silence. Despite working together and living together, neither knew how to start a conversation with the other. They both wanted the same thing: they wanted to return to that place they had found a week earlier, but how to get there was the problem.
It was Grace who took the responsibility to move them…somewhere. She walked across the cold sand toward the ex-con. Dana was sitting on an old beach blanket, watching the gray waves of the winterized ocean break and tumble, over and over and over again.
“Dana,” the blonde said softly.
Lon ely, guilty eyes regarded her.
“I want you to get some help,” she said with a tremor in her voice.
“No, no, no,” Dana said quietly, shaking her head from side to side.
Tears welled up in the green eyes. “Dana, we aren’t going to make it unless you get some help.”
Dana stared at the continually moving surf. “I scared you?” she asked, ashamed.
Grace sat down next to her on the blanket, hugging her knees to her chest and rocking slightly. “Yes.”
“I never wanted you to see me like that. But I couldn’t help it, Grace. And I still want to kill him. And I can’t control feeling this way.”
“No, not yet. Not without help.”
“No head-shrinkers. I’ve been through that. They don’t help.”
“They’re not all like the ones in York. I know a few that you could work with.”
Dana shifted uneasily. Tears filled her eyes. “They’re just going to tell me I’m a violent sociopath or a manic-depressive psychotic or some other kind of sicko.”
“Dana, they won’t categorize you like that. And the one thing I’m sure of is that no one can hang a label on you. You constantly defy the laws of binary definitions.”
Dana flopped back onto the blanket, exhausted by loneliness and worry.
“What can you possibly be afraid to find out about yourself that you don’t already know?”
“That I’m not healthy enough to be with you.”
Grace looked down at her partner. “You’re talking mental health to a woman addicted to amphetamines. I think I can deal with your mental struggles if you can deal with mine, as long as you’re working to do something to keep them under control.”
And with that admission Dana for a moment actually felt she could, possibly, maybe, see someone.
“You know someone you trust?”
“Yes. I went to undergrad with her.”
Dana looked at her warily. “Hmmm, a woman.”
“Yes, she’s a really wonderful woman.”
Dana fixed her with moist eyes and thought about it. “Well, as long as you never slept with her, I guess I could try it.”
A neutral look settled on Grace’s face. “Um.”
Dana rolled her eyes. “Is there a single woman you graduated with whom you haven’t slept with?”
“Jesus, Grace,” Dana said, unable to keep a tiny smile from her lips. “You were such a freakin’ horndog.”
“I couldn’t help it. I’m drawn to beautiful, intelligent women. What can I say?”
“No. Just say no.” Dana rolled over onto her side, turning her back to Grace.
“I’m an extroverted overachiever, so sue me. When I see something, or someone, I do all I can to get what I want.” She crawled up Dana’s side, relishing the renewed touch, and licked an ear. “And she and I weren’t really lovers in that sense. We were friends who did a lot of naked touching one night,” she whispered. â•?And we were college. Even straight girls do that in college. Anyway, she’s very happy now, has a partner…and I think she can help you.”
Dana sighed, beaten. “You do always get what you want, don’t you?”
Grace flipped Dana onto her back and stretched herself over the long legs and torso. She planted her hands on the cotton blanket on either side of Dana’s head and stared down.
“Always,” the doctor huskily replied, separating long thighs with her hips. “So you’ll try with Cassandra?”
“Oh, my God, what a freakin’ name!”
A rock of the hips. “Try, please.”
“Okay. But you promise me one thing.”
“That if she discovers I’m too broken to fix, you’ll still keep me around.” Dana tried to smile, but Grace could tell she really was afraid of being abandoned.
“Oh, Dana. We’re all broken to some extent. And anyway, I’m in this for the long haul, nothing shorter.”
Dana smiled in relief, wanting to believe her, and waited for Grace to seal their pact with a kiss. Lips brushed together softly, tenderly, needily. Their intertwined bodies rocked together with the same motion as the waves–a fluid, sensual motion, unrelenting, natural, and perfect. They had found a path to travel, and hopefully it was going to take them where they wanted to go.
December 1998 by Jules Mills
Continued in Nano #6: The First Law Of Thermodynamics