Part 8...
by Emily Mills

Comments welcome at: batgirl@agog.net

Dr. Bremner rubbed tired eyes with his hands and yawned deeply. It sure had been one long day for a small town hospital. And it was all somehow connected to the little blonde spit-fire in room 103 and her dark-haired companion. He laughed to himself as he ran his hands under a warm stream of water to remove the soap and then sat down at a table nearby.

Reese would probably be well enough to be discharged in the morning and he was sure she'd be very pleased to find that out. It had surprised him really, to see how fast the girl had recovered. But he wasn't complaining.

The sun was coming up, the first golden rays streaming in through the one window in the room. He looked up as the light hit his eyes and grimaced. He hadn't been seeing much of his wife lately with all of the overnight work and frankly, he missed her. Hopefully, he mused, everything would return to normal within the next day or so.

Bremner got up out of the chair and changed into some casual wear he kept in a locker. As he ambled down the hallways toward the exit, he waved so long to fellow doctors and nurses who were just starting their shift and dropped off his discharge recommendation for Reese. He went out the big double doors of the hospital and headed for his car out in the lot. A slight tingle went up his spine then and he casually glanced behind him, getting the sensation of being watched but not really thinking anything of it.

Auset was roused from a light sleep by the sound of someone calling her name. She opened her eyes and saw a police officer standing at the door to her cell, which was open, and holding papers in his hands.

"Auset Passaris. Time to go, you've been cleared of all charges."

The hacker blinked a few times and sat up on the metal bench. "What? How so?" If this was you again, Sera, so help me I'll--

"Says here that 'you only attacked Mary Burns after she came at you with a gun when you confronted her about the shooting. Self-defense.' So you're being released," the man replied, a touch of humor in his voice. Auset stood then and walked over to the man, snatching the paper out of his grip and reading it for herself. She scanned over what the man had already read and looked for the name of the officer, or whoever, who had made the report.

She almost had to bend over and pick her jaw up off the ground when she saw the signature at the bottom. "Harold McLeod."

"But how--?" she began, still not believing or understanding. The officer grinned and took the report back from her.

"You got lucky, really. Old Harry called in a favor as his last move on active duty. His discharge only becomes official in a few days. Said it was for his daughter more an' it was for you. Don't ask me why, just git on outta here."

Auset was at a loss. She followed the officer down the hallway and into the front room where they gave her things back and took care of all the paperwork for her release. The hacker went through it all silently, still processing the facts in her mind. It didn't make sense, a man with a record like Harold's doing something like this. He didn't seem like the type. But then, if there was anything she'd started to notice in the past week or so, it was that some people had a tendency to surprise you in good ways once in a while.

The sun was just barely beginning its ascent into the sky when Auset left the building. The air was still cool from the night and a low mist clung to the grass. She spotted her car over in the side lot where it had been towed to last night, the glossy finish reflecting the sunrise. Auset grinned and moved off towards her guilty pleasure of an automobile.

Things certainly were getting progressively crazier around here, Chad Bremner thought to himself dryly. The cold steel of the knife that was currently pressed against his throat wasn't causing him any comfort, that was for sure. He had been assaulted on the way to his car and pulled back into the low bushes that lined the front of the hospital. The doctor hadn't even gotten a look at his assailant as the person had come up behind him and stayed there even now. The gloom of early morning was still settled over everything, so that didn't help matters much.
He saw a sleek black sports car pull up into the parking lot and come to a stop in one of the far spaces. Maybe they'll see me and go get help. But then, if my new friend here knows they've been spotted, I may not be around long enough to receive that help.

A tall figure stepped out of the car, dark hair moving slightly in the soft breeze and sunglasses reflecting the sun's light in the same manner that the car was reflecting that light. Chad recognized Auset as soon as she began walking towards the hospital entrance. Her gait was unmistakable, bordering on a swagger.

He swallowed hard, Adam's apple moving against the blade held to his throat. Then, before he could think of anything to do himself, his attacker made the move for him, shoving Bremner out into the open with knife still pressed to his throat.

Auset stopped in her tracks as the doctor came stumbling out of the bushes to her right with a man holding a large knife to his throat.

"Okaaaay, what's all this then?" she asked, bemused. The attacker's face was still hidden in the shadows of early morning and of the close proximity to the brick wall. But after only a brief second, Auset recognized the chiseled face and well-trimmed goatee; the impeccably tailored suit and deep brown eyes.

"Hello again, Auset," Sera addressed her, his voice it's usual low rumble. The doctor remained prudently silent and still.

"I would think that something like assault and hostage-taking was beneath you. Pretty tacky, if you ask me," she countered, shifting her weight to one leg and raising an amused eyebrow at the man.

"Cute. But it makes me glad to know you're not still above good old fashioned mud-slinging now and then." Sera pursed his lips and smirked. "It was a bit more difficult to find you this time, Auset. This back water town really ought to get with the current century."

"I'm surprised you found me at all. Thought your abilities were strictly limited to the digital world. I wouldn't have expected you to sully yourself with the activities of common folk like us."

He laughed then, deep in his throat, and shook his head in sheer amusement. "Oh Auset, you have no idea how appealing some of the more base functions of you 'common folk' are. If you'd like to help out my experience of them..."

"Can it," the hacker cut him off impatiently, ignoring the suggestive leer he was aiming at her. "What are you here for?"

"I've come to get you back, of course. This whole hero act has gone way too far. And you're trying to quit! You're my best pupil, Auset, I won't let you go without a fight."

"I haven't been your pupil for some time now, Sera. I do pretty damn well on my own. And it's not your decision whether I quit or not," Auset stated flatly. The sun was fully out from behind the horizon and throwing bright streaks of light over the landscape with wild abandon. Auset watched the light reflect off of the man's brown eyes, giving him an almost supernatural appearance. She shook off the notion as he spoke again.

"Oh but it is my decision. I made you, I own you."

Auset sighed in frustration. "Oh, stop being so melodramatic, Sera! Let the man go."

Sera only tightened his grip on the doctor, who was starting to have trouble breathing now.

Reese woke up in the dim light of early morning and immediately called for a nurse or a doctor. A woman entered, dressed in regular scrubs and smiling pleasantly.

"I need to leave now. I feel much better, thank you, and I'd like to get my discharge please," Reese began, speaking quickly.

"All right, let me just--"

"And I don't give a damn what the doctor says, it's time for me to go, OK? So just get the papers or whatever and let me...wait, did you say 'all right'?" Reese asked, finally hearing the woman's reply to her first entreaty.

"Yes, I did. Doctor Bremner dropped off your discharge papers just a little while ago. I'll help you get dressed and out. You have a way to get home?"

"Uh...yes. Thanks," Reese answered, a touch embarrassed. Andy grinned and helped the woman get his sister's things together.

"I've got a car here," he said, addressing the doctor. She nodded in approval and helped sit Reese down in a wheel chair. They rolled her out into the reception area where the paperwork was finished up and Reese was given the medication needed for the days to come, along with the name of the doctor she was to visit back up in Chicago. As Andrew pushed Reese out the front doors, they saw the three people on the walkway off to the side. Reese immediately saw what was happening and jumped from the wheel chair and ran over to stand at Auset's side.

What the hell is going on, Auset?" she demanded, glaring at the man who was holding Dr. Bremner at knife point. How did this Sera guy manage to show up every place her and Auset went?

"Hi Reese, glad to see you're up and about," Auset replied, grinning. "Seems Sera was bored today and decided to mess around with our lives again."

"Oh come now," Sera interjected. "I wasn't bored, you're just one of my number one priorities!"

"So why are you involving the doctor?" Reese asked angrily. Sera shrugged and poked the doctor in the chin with his knife. A small drop of blood beaded up.

It's more fun this way," he said. "Now Auset, where were we? Ah yes, we were discussing how you were going to continue working for me." Reese glanced over at her friend, who was very visibly not amused.

"Sera, I am not coming back to work for you. I'm quitting, get it through your head," Auset grumbled. The man's face grew dark.

"How DARE you defy me like that! After all I've done for you!" he bellowed. Reese leaned over and whispered into the hacker's ear.

"What, is he your father or something?" Auset chuckled silently at that and kept her eyes forward as she shook her head a little.

"Aw for the love of.... You two," Sera said, annoyed. "Y'know, blondie, this is your fault. She's been like this ever since you came along!"

Reese thrust her finger into her chest and took on a look of astonished innocence.

"Yes, you! I should be holding you at knife point!" The idea seemed to strike his fancy even as he spoke and in a flash he had pushed the doctor to the side and was lunging at Reese. Auset made to intercept him, but before she could do anything, the little blonde had ducked and brought her knee up to connect with Sera's groin, dead on. The man buckled over in pain and groaned loudly as he clutched the afflicted region.

"You will not fuck with my friend's life any more!" Reese began loudly, fists clenched in anger. She placed her foot firmly over Sera's crotch and pressed down a little. "If you ever come near her again, I'll kick you in the balls so hard you'll need a special prescription of Viagra if you ever plan on getting it up again, got it?" The man merely winced, his face red with pain, and nodded in desperate agreement. "Good," she stated and removed her foot. "Now enjoy your stay in jail."

Auset laughed in amazement. Three police officers came up then and slapped handcuffs over Sera's wrists as they hauled him to his feet. Reese had seen her brother run back into the hospital and then out, signaling that he had called the police. When she saw the officers pull up, she figured it would be worth taking the risk of trying to incapacitate Sera. She hadn't actually expected to get the hit in and the rage in her voice even caught her off guard. But she was serious.

"Aw, now this isn't playing fair," Sera accused, directing his glare at the dark-haired woman standing behind the little blonde. "You know this won't last long."

Auset silently acknowledged the truth of his statement. The man had more connections than she could count and money coming out of his ears.

"Maybe so, but it'll hold you long enough. We'll deal with this as it should be, one-on-one, when you get out."

"That is," Reese added. "If you don't get whooped too bad by some bigger inmate who decides to make you his 'special friend.'" Sera flinched slightly and snarled at her. Auset couldn't hold in her laugh at what Reese had said and especially at the look on Sera's face. The cops forced him into one of the squad cars, after reading him his rights, and then drove off, sirens blaring.

"Good move, Andy," Auset said as she casually placed her arm around Reese's shoulders.

"No problem," he replied happily. Bremner ambled over to the trio then, smiling weakly and rubbing his neck a little.

"Woo, thanks guys. You know, when I took the position as head surgeon here I expected it to be a relatively simple life, with this being such a small town and all. These past few days have certainly been anything but."

"Sorry about that," Reese apologized, smiling. "We'll be out of here today though, so you should be able to get some rest."
"Well thank you," he chuckled. "Now you be sure to take those pills and visit that doctor up in the city, young lady. And try to get some rest for the next few days, you were shot after all."

"Will do, doc," the blonde agreed happily. The one remaining policeman approached them then and asked Dr. Bremner to come down to the station to make a statement about his attacker. He agreed, and after saying his good-byes and thanks to everyone, climbed into the passenger seat of the remaining squad car and it drove off down the road.

Reese turned to her brother and sighed.

"Yeah, I know you're leaving," he said, shrugging. "But thank you, for everything. I love you sis."

"Love you too, bro," she replied warmly and enveloped her brother in a hug. "Now you be good, and good luck dealing with dad."

"I have a feeling it's going to be a little better from now on," Andrew replied wistfully. Reese nodded slightly and mussed up his hair.

"If you ever need anything," Auset added. "Just call. You know where to reach us."

Reese turned her head to look at Auset, who smirked at her and then returned her blue gaze back to Andrew, who had missed the silent exchange completely.

You know where to reach us. Wow. Reese shook her head in amazement. The two siblings embraced again and then Andrew wandered off to find his car. Reese turned so that she was facing Auset and tugged on the woman's sleeve.

"You wanna get out of here?"

"Oh boy, you have no idea," the dark-haired woman answered enthusiastically. They both smiled and half-ran back to Auset's car.

After picking up Reese's things from the motel, along with her own car, the two hit the road, driving side-by-side down the four lane highway en route to their favorite windy city.


Ephiny practically tackled Reese as she came in through the door to Auset's apartment. The weight of her luggage combined with the force of impact from the flying cat projectile caused her to lose her balance and teeter backwards. Auset, however, caught the woman and helped her to stand up straight again.

"I thought only dogs did that," the hacker noted dryly.

"Oh, she's an odd cat, but what can I say, I love her," Reese answered as she pet the contentedly purring cat and set her luggage down on the hardwood floor.

"You should probably get some rest. Been a long few days," Auset suggested as she took her friend's bags and moved them to the closet. Reese yawned and stretched in agreement and sauntered over to the mattress. Auset chuckled and dug her friend's sleeping clothes out of a bag and then went over to where the blonde was seated. She handed Reese the clothes and turned her back as she went about checking everything on her Nest. Reese set about changing into the clothing but when she attempted to lift her hands over her head so as to put on the shirt, a bolt of pain shot up her side from the wound and caused her to gasp slightly and stop moving.

Auset turned around to find the girl with her arms raised, shirt half on and half off, and refusing to move any further.

"Ah, you want some help?" she offered. Reese nodded meekly from beneath the cloth of her shirt. The hacker walked back over and helped slide the shirt down over Reese's body, trying to ignore exactly what it was that she was doing. Reese, on the other hand, was making damn sure she was aware of every second. Shooting, nasty pain aside, it was quite nice. Auset had a gentle yet assured touch and the writer found herself maybe wanting to feel it some more. She mentally shook the thoughts away as Auset finished though and took care of putting her sleep boxers on by herself. The hacker went back to the Nest and sat down without saying a word.

Hmm. Reese studied the woman's back for a moment before another yawn reminded her that she needed to get some sleep. A touch reluctantly, she fell back onto the mattress and curled up in the comfortable sheets, drifting off to sleep rather quickly.

Another one of those crazy dreams. It was all disorienting fragments again, but there was also that same familiar feeling she got from all the other dreams like this.

A cold room. Stiff limbs, like death. A few people standing around but their faces were blurred. Someone touched her cheek and then drew back. But there was a warm presence by her side, a very comforting presence. All of the features blurred here too, all save the black hair and intense blue eyes. They had an exhausted look to them, but also an incredibly relieved and loving look. She leaned over and rested her head on the person's shoulder and felt a warmth course through her body that soothed her achey limbs. A voice, her own, saying something about "forever", and then another voice came into her head, not speaking, just there:


She woke up smoothly this time, shifting her position a little and stretching hesitantly, careful not to irritate her wound. Reese blinked open her eyes and found that the sun had sunk down in the sky, indicating that it was late afternoon. She did, however, feel much better for the rest. Turning away from the window, she saw the Nest was abandoned but heard noises coming from the kitchen.

"You hungry?" Auset's voice called in to her. Reese laughed and sat up.

"Always," she answered. The hacker came out of the kitchen carrying two plates that had delicious smells wafting up from them. Auset placed one down next to Reese and then sat down on the floor herself.

"Fettucinni Alfredo. And no, I didn't cook it. I'm strictly an order-in kinda gal," Auset informed her as she took a bite of noodles. Reese grinned and dug into her own pile.

"Hey, it's the thought that counts."

Auset grunted her agreement and dove into the task at hand with a certain relish. They both ate in silence, a sort of awkward posture affecting them both. Their thoughts were practically the same, running over the events of the past day--particularly the kiss. How to bridge the subject?

Auset was making a point to pay extra attention to the dish she was consuming, savoring every bite of the creamy noodles. She wanted to bring it up, but didn't want to make Reese uncomfortable. What if it had just been an effect of the drugs she was on? It was much easier to just keep mindlessly eating her food--and if Reese wanted to talk, she undoubtedly would.

Reese could barely stand it. The food is great, think about the food. She glanced up and saw Auset staring intently at her own meal. It almost made Reese giggle, the hacker's face was so intense. She's nervous too. Good. Reese grinned and put her fork down, the sound of it hitting the plate causing Auset to look up and catch the blonde's gaze. She unconsciously arched a dark eyebrow, a noodle still dangling from her lips, and blinked a few times for good measure. Then, in an action so fast it was almost impossible to actually see, Auset sucked the noodle all the way into her mouth, causing bits of the white sauce to splatter across her chin. Reese couldn't help herself. She laughed and reached out one hand to remove the sauce from the dark-haired woman's chin, smiling and shaking her head at the deviant grin that had shaped Auset's mouth.

"Great ice-breaker," Reese remarked wryly. Auset just issued her lop-sided grin and used a napkin to remove the rest of the sauce from her face.

"Was getting to tense in 'ere, had to do something."

"You could have just cut the air with your knife," Reese suggested sarcastically. When Auset lifted said utensil up and began making jabbing motions at the empty air, the blonde chuckled and changed her mind. "But then, I think I'd rather have you slurping noodles than waving a knife around."

"Don't trust me, eh?" the taller woman teased. Reese just snorted and playfully poked her companion in the shoulder. After a moment filled with more eating, Reese looked back up and studied Auset's face, then spoke.

"So how did you find out who shot me?" she asked, realizing that much of what had happened in the past day made little sense. Auset set her fork down and balanced the plate on her lap.

"I have many skills," was her simple reply. Reese scowled, her lower lip protruding in a pout-like manner, to which Auset relented easily. "OK, fine. With what little information I could get out of the police, I did some detective work. The woman who shot you was the executive I worked with down in Dallas, name of Mary. She, subsequently, works for Sera."

Reese blinked, taking this in, and then said, "Oh."

"Yeah, I know," Auset went on, a bit of anger resurfacing. "I finished my work down there a little faster than anticipated. Sera had some grand plan worked out for me, but my leaving so quickly kind of messed that up I guess. He and Mary were pretty pissed, so I imagine that he sent her to Flora."

"But how did Sera know you'd be there? How'd he even get Mary there so fast that she beat even you?"

"Good question," the hacker went on, considering this seriously. "I had been wondering about that myself. Sera's a powerful man, so I can only guess that he has sources, informants, everywhere. It sounds paranoid, but I wouldn't doubt that someone found out that you were in Flora and, knowing Sera, he sent Mary to...well...to get to you, knowing that it would draw me to the same place. And he was right."

"That still doesn't explain how Mary got their so fast," Reese interjected, worry lines beginning to crease the skin around her eyes.

"Private jet, perhaps. Sera's got the money for it. Probably had Mary flown out as soon as I left the building in Dallas."

A silence drifted between the two, Reese processing the new information and Auset worrying about the effect all this might have on her new friend. Was it right to involve her like this? Was it fair?

"It seems like some spy movie," Reese finally said, smiling a little and shrugging.

"Yeah, it does," the hacker agreed. "I guess that's part of what initially attracted me to the lifestyle. But Sera..." she practically spat out his name, "...he's out of control. He needs to be stopped and I think I may have finally found a way to do it. I planted a bug in the system I was working with down in Dallas. He won't notice it until too late." Auset was staring off into space, grinning maliciously.

"What will it do?" Reese asked quietly, slightly unnerved by the look on her friend's face.

"Destroy him and his empire. And possibly me along with it."

"Auset--" Reese started to speak, bringing her hand to place over the hacker's knee, but the woman cut her off.

"No, Reese. It will take him down and if that means I go down as well, so be it. I've done my share of shitty things too, it's only fair." Auset's voice was firm but gentle, her blue eyes looking on Reese beseechingly. The blonde could only shake her head and lean in closer to Auset's face, lowering her voice to a near-whisper.

"But you're not like him, Auset. Under it all, you're good. I won't stand by and watch you get the same punishment as that asshole."

Auset was genuinely touched by the writer's concern for her own well-being. It had been a long time since anyone had really cared. Reese's friendship, her faith in the dark-haired hacker alone, was enough.

"Well, it may not even affect me. We won't know for a few days, anyway," Auset added reassuringly, issuing a half-hearted smile. Not entirely convinced, but willing to let the subject go for a while, the blonde inhaled deeply and sat back.

"What happens in a few days?" asked Reese.

"The bug I planted is completely untraceable. The program it's in will execute tomorrow and the bug along with it. In a nutshell, a virus will spread through all systems connected with Pharmatech in the span of about fifteen minutes. It will clog up the system so no one will be able to get in and do anything while at the same time deleting all of the company's data. The whole process will take roughly..." she paused and ticked off some numbers in her head, "...two hours, ten minutes. When it's done, that company, all of it, will be totally wiped out."


"Yes, well, I like to be thorough," Auset replied seriously.


Continued in Part 9...

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