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.
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