Part Four - The change of motion is directly proportional to the motive force impressed
The trio found themselves at the Connecticut border within a record time of three hours. Rachel drove her Porsche hard and fast because, one, she liked speed, and, two, the dog smelled like fish. Normally a good traveler, Dana was ecstatic to unfold herself and set her feet on the hard, static concrete of the medical facility's parking garage.
"The word 'harrowing' does not do your driving justice, Rach," Dana remarked. She contemplated kneeling down and kissing the ground but stretched her long arms and legs instead.
Rip climbed out of the car wobbling and still whimpering. Dana patted her head to reassure her that it would be okay.
"I don't know who was whining more--you or that dog."
"Me, most definitely." She worked her hands, which were stiff from clasping the sides of the seat for dear life.
Dana grabbed her small duffel from behind the seat and took a deep breath to release some of the nervous energy. Once she had gotten past the initial anger at Rachel for finding her, she had had a few minor revelations. And, as soon as Rachel had mentioned that the program was in trouble, Dana had convinced herself to go. She was tired of amateurs mucking around in her nanoverse. The fact that Greer was the premiere mucker added fuel to the flame, and, of course, there was Grace. Dana was not going to let Grace forget her, especially since Dana could not do likewise.
The three rode the elevator to the second floor of the research facility and disembarked at the security station. The security officer recognized Rachel but asked for her badge anyway. After a few minutes of waiting while Rachel signed Dana in as a visitor and a long debate over whether or not Dana would relinquish Rip into the custody of the security officer, the hacker and the nano tech proceeded to the locked entrance. In turn, each slid her assigned keycard and then right hand into a biometric reader. When it recognized Rachel's dimensions and the fact that she did indeed have a human visitor, the door clicked open and they were admitted entrance to the laboratory facilities.
But on the other side it was really no different from the lobby. A series of glass administrative offices lined the walls. The lights flickered on when the motion of the women was detected. A few seconds later the air-conditioning whirred to life.
As she led her companion into the guts of the lab, Rachel regained her confident step after the brief encounter with the guard. The floor was vacant, which surprised Dana. From what Rachel had explained during the ride, the group had gotten stalled after several failures of the first modification. Dana would have had her team in around the clock working through the problem, striving to find a solution.
"The computer center is right down here around the corner."
"You moved it?"
"I needed more space for my assistant."
"Assistant? I never thought I would hear that word from your mouth."
"We all grow up sometime. You should try it."
Dana gave the back of the hacker's head an evil sneer.
"Whoa." The hacker's shoes came to a squeaking halt as they rounded the corner. A few paces down on the left was a single large, glass-walled office. The privacy blinds were pulled down, but the door was open, and the lights were on. The recorded voice of Tracy Chapman was coming from the occupied office.
Rachel approached slowly and peeked her head around the door frame. She looked back at Dana and mouthed, "Here goes."
Grace looked up from the technical progress report that Greer had dropped off on her desk in the late afternoon, five days late.
"Rach. Where have you been all day?"
"I had some questions for you," she answered in a tired, husky voice. Her eyes were wiped clean of the morning's light dusting of make-up and were dark and puffy from lack of sleep.
Rachel was concerned for her friend. "You should go home, Grace, and get some sleep. You look like the ragged end of a used Q-tip."
Grace thought about the description and then brushed it off. "How do you always know what to say to make me feel so pretty, Rach?" She tried to rub some of the fatigue out of her eyes and then inquired, "What are you doing here so late? Aren't there any government databases to crash tonight?"
"Ouch," Rachel said, grabbing her chest and laughing. "No, I had an idea I wanted to apply that couldn't wait until morning."
"Really?" Grace perked up. "Can I help?"
Rachel looked back at Dana, who shook her head no. "I have some help, but thanks."
Green eyes sparkled with curiosity. Another consultant, perhaps. But Rachel had not mentioned any others. And she would need to arrange any additional help through Grace. And why hadn't she introduced the consultant to her? Grace stood up from her desk and walked over to the door to see who it was.
The tall, full frame of her ex-lover leaned against the wall, blue eyes diverted to black sneakers. Grace felt her heart stop and then flutter a few times in an attempt to restart. She was beyond speechless, she was without thought. And when she gasped, her wide eyes were met with the most beautiful pale blue eyes. She would have noticed the fear in them had she had any cognizant brain activity whatsoever. Instead, she spun on her heel and proceeded back to her chair to sit down at her desk, numb from shock.
"See, I told you she wouldn't freak," Rachel said, looking at Dana triumphantly.
"Rachel, we need to talk--now!" Grace said, her voice shaking.
Dana blew out a stream of air.
"Let me get her started, and I'll be back down," Rachel replied more cautiously. She turned to Dana. "This way."
Dana was led past the computer center to the conference room that she had used as a base for the Destroyer Project nine months earlier.
"What do you want to start with?" Rachel asked as Dana walked around the table and chose a cushioned chair to sit in. It was a good thing she had not spoken, or she would have sounded as tousled as Grace.
"The last iteration that functioned with a fifty-percent clinical success rate or higher."
"That would be the basic."
"You mean you haven't had a single iteration beyond the basic that worked?"
"Then let's start there. If you can bring me the models and the simulations for the baseline and the first modification, I'll start with those. Meanwhile, you can track down all of the lab notebooks that correspond to the two trials."
"What departments are you interested in?"
"All of them. Come to think of it, I want all of the lab notebooks up to today. I need to try to get a fix on what Greer is doing. But we'll save your programs until last, unless you think they are the problem."
"Ha! We'll review them last," Rachel said and disappeared on her search.
When she had Dana poring through the simulation results, the models, and the lab notebooks from the Organic Laboratory and the clinical department, Rachel made her way back down the hall to Grace Wilson's office.
She knocked on the doorframe to announce an official visit. "Grace, I can explain," she said when the young doctor looked up from the report. She had not read a word of the report since the two had left. It didn't matter anyway; Greer had not made any progress in two months.
"What makes you think I want her help with my project?"
"This isn't your project," Rachel found herself arguing.
"It is my program."
"God, who died and made you Queen? It's not yours. It belongs to everyone--otherwise I wouldn't be here. Got it?" She found that her jaw was clenched painfully at the frustrating woman.
"You--you can't bring in an outsider into a program this sensitive without going through the board or at least the head administrator."
Rachel smirked. "You're just pissed off because you're looking frumpy and she looks great."
"No, Rachel. I'm pissed off right now because there's a protocol and you didn't follow it."
"Ah, fuck the protocol. It was their tight-assed protocol that landed us Greer instead of Dana in the first place."
Grace bit back a retort that would have made her sound even more like the worthless suits that Dana and Rachel always complained about. "What does she want?"
"To help us. That's all. And you might want to cut her some slack, considering she had to take time off from work and her girlfriend to come down here."
"What? What does she do?"
I got ya interested now, Queenie. Rachel smiled to herself. "She skippers a fishing boat near Freeport. It's quite lucrative, from what I've been told. She looks good, doesn't she?"
Grace had to admit, even from that little glimpse she had taken, that Dana had filled in and looked even better than when they had first met. She had gained twenty pounds herself, but more from eating junk food and not having time to run. She was on her duff all day in meetings, on the phone, or reading reports. She had become quite soft.
"Do you really think she can accomplish anything that the other consultants haven't been able to?" She recalled the countless physicists Rachel had been in charge of bringing into the program.
"Gracie, this is Doc we're talking about."
Grace's eyebrows pinched as she thought about her computer administrator's words.
Rachel grinned, knowing she had most definitely convinced Grace. "I think she can solve all of our problems. I wouldn't be surprised if she had figured it all out while we were in here gabbing about it. Come and talk to her. She says if you don't agree, she'll go back home."
Grace stared at Rachel. The thought of actually talking to Dana again frightened her. What would she say?
"You don't think she'll mind working with me?"
"She'll probably barely notice you're there." Oooh, I'm good.
Dana was looking through the carbon-purification processes for both the baseline model that had worked and the subsequent ones that had failed in clinical trials with the rats. The simulations were very good, all in all, so when the clinical trials were busts, the first thing Greer had attacked was the simulation application, which burned Dana's ass big-time.
When she heard Rachel's shoes squeaking down the hall she was glad, because she needed someone to vent on. She pushed her glasses further up her nose to help with distinguishing the letters of the handwritten notes of the second material-preparation notebook. "Hey, Rach, where's Jack's lab book for the first modification?"
"He left after the baseline."
"Where did he go?"
"Down one floor and to the right. He's in an organic lab there."
"Now, there's great management. Get rid of your best organic tech. Who was responsible for that blunder?"
"I was," Grace said as she entered the doorway to the conference room.
Dana let the notebook slip from her hands to the table and straightened up.
"He was unhappy and requested a transfer to another lab."
"That's too bad. Jack's the best material tech I've ever worked with. Did you even bother to find out why he wanted to leave?"
"And you actually listened to him."
"He didn't like working with Greer."
Dana nodded. "Did you lose anyone else I should know about?"
Grace hesitated. "We lost a few others."
"Would Minnie be one of them?"
Dana sighed, shaking her head disapprovingly, and jotted something down on a notepad. "How did you manage to keep Rachel?" she asked, still staring at the paper.
"Leave me out of this," Rachel said.
"How hard would it be to get them back up here?" Dana asked, without looking up from her notes.
Grace looked to Rachel for some sign of where she was going with this. "We have people who--"
"--You have people with no practical experience and obviously no leadership to give them that experience."
"I mean in the technical arena, Grace, not administrative, so get your panties out of a bundle."
If Dana had looked up, she would have seen Grace's face turning pink. "How can you walk in here and make a determination like that so quickly? You haven't even met--"
"--I don't need to meet Greer. I know him through his work. As for the others, their notebooks tell me the technical story." She finally looked Grace squarely in the eyes over her silver rims. "You have me for three days to straighten this mess out. I suggest that you stop making excuses and start accepting where the problems lie." Dana looked away at her notes again. "And if you had told me you were going to hire Sam Greer, I would have talked you out of it."
"You weren't around," the blond woman snapped.
"Funny, I remember waiting around for a week for a phone call that I never received. Maybe if you had returned any one of my thirty-eight messages, you would have known I was still here," Dana replied, without looking up from her notebook.
"Okay, you two, now's not the time or place for who's to blame," Rachel interjected.
Dana set down her pencil. "What time does the team come in in the morning?
"Team? Oh, team, right. Around eight," Rachel answered. "Is that enough time?"
"Enough time for what?" Grace asked, feeling both flustered and inept in the face of the secret communication code of the techs.
"To figure out what the method is to Greer's madness, and to try to get the program back on the correct path," Dana answered.
"I have a series of status reports he writes for me once a week, if that'll help."
Dana looked at her over her wire rims and nodded.
Once Grace had left to retrieve the paper reports, Rachel turned to Dana. "So what do you think?"
"I think this place is a mess."
"No, I mean about Queenie."
Dana refused to look up. "Who cares?"
"All I care about nowadays is where the fish are hanging out and whether Rip has enough to eat."
"Do you want time alone with her to go over the reports?"
Alone, she thought. What would happen if they were alone? What did she really wish would happen? "Doesn't matter to me."
Rachel shook her head disgustedly. "I don't know what happened between you two, but you're both being incredibly large asses."
Just then Grace returned with a stack of red plastic binders, each five inches thick. Rachel walked over to help her with the load and slid them across the table at Doc. Dana looked at the binders and then her watch and sighed. She stood up to deconstruct the pile in front of her. A moment later her watch beeped, signaling two a.m. "No wonder Greer hasn't accomplished anything. He's too busy piecing together progress reports."
"They aren't for shits and giggles, Dana. I had him start the reports to find out what he was doing about the program after things had begun to falter."
Dana resisted the urge to apologize. "Rachel suggested that it might be helpful if you stayed and went through them with me."
"If you want me to."
"I don't want to read these if I can avoid it, and if you can keep me from wasting my time, then, yes, I do want you to stay. But if you think I should read them myself, then leave."
The two stubborn women stared at each other.
"I'm going to find all of my programs," Rachel said, sliding out of the conference room between the two women.
Dana crossed the room and closed the door.
"Rachel tells me I'm an ass for leaving you," she said, still facing the door.
"If the shoe fits."
"Actually, she says we're both asses. But I didn't leave you, Grace, not until I was sure you didn't give a damn."
"I was busy. That doesn't mean I didn't care."
"Too busy to call me back?"
Grace could not argue with her. She had not returned those calls. After Dana withdrew from her, she had made the choice that she could not concentrate on both the infant program and her friend. But looking at the hurt she had caused, she knew she had made the wrong decision, or at least should have found a compromise.
"I even tried to arrange a meeting with you before I left, but your secretary canceled me."
"I had to go to Washington for Barbara."
A brief pang of hurt darkened Dana's blue eyes before she returned to her seat. "I was more disgusted with myself for taking so long to figure out you really didn't want me." She paused and looked at Grace thoughtfully. "But what you did for me, taking me in, taking care of me, for whatever reason, no one had ever done that before, and I'll always be grateful to you for that."
"For whatever reason? Dana, I loved you."
"I don't think it was love, Grace. Kindness--maybe, attraction--perhaps, a challenge--absolutely. But let's not romanticize it; that's how people got hurt."
"I hurt you?"
"Well, I figured we were even for what I did in Chicago." She opened the red binder in front of her and flipped to the first report.
Grace sat down in the chair next to her and touched her hand, causing Dana to twitch.
"Just explain what's been going on with the project, Grace."
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