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
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