Part Nine - Removing Heat from a System

Rain was blowing sideways between the concrete pillars of the parking garage as the sun set behind black clouds. A flash of lightning brightened the parking level, and three seconds later the steel girders rattled from a thunderous scream. Dana Papadopolis folded her long legs up as she climbed into the passenger seat of the Jeep Wrangler. Grace climbed in behind the steering wheel and slipped the key into the ignition. But instead of starting the Jeep, she stared out at the downpour, watching the wind whip the rain into waves. March weather was as schizophrenic as it came, balmy and clear in the morning, with torrential storms in the evening.

"You think we should wait this out?" Grace asked her friend, who was still shifting, trying to get comfortable.

"I think I need my own freakin' car," the nano tech complained, trying to stretch her legs. "A big-ass that I can toss my fishing pole, my doggie, and a cooler of Coronas into, then head to the mountains."

"What mountains? There aren't any mountains around here."

"Any mountains, at this point." The dark woman sighed. "Even those little speed bumps called the Appalachians will do."

"And you prefer Sam Adams to Corona."

"Whose fantasy is it anyway?" Dana snapped, blue eyes faking irritation.

"A fantasy with your dog and beer, but I'm not in it. How goddamned masculine."

"If I put you in it wearing a garter and black hose, then it would be masculine, Grace. Right now it's just a Thoreauian escapism deal."

"You're just sooo deep," Grace shot back, starting the engine.

"Ummm...yes. But I think adding you as a snuggle-mate in a sleeping bag could enhance the whole image." She closed her eyes as Grace watched her through the lenses of her driving glasses. "Oh, yeah, definitely an improvement." Dana smirked and stretched. "And I wouldn't be averse to the idea of your trying out for the role of sex kitten either, Dr. Wilson."

"I do like camping, by the way," the young doctor offered, ignoring the remark.

"Really?" Dana was genuinely surprised at that tidbit.

"Yep. Mom and Dad used to send Joy and me to Camp Chimney Corners and Dickie to Becket every summer."

"Chimney Corners? I knew a few kids that went there in the summers. It's a freakin' rich-kid camp, Grace. Five-course meals, chauffeurs to the lake and back. I hardly call it camping."

Grace backed out of her spot, the tires whirring. "I can't win with you, can I?"

"You already have my heart, Chipmunk--what else could you possibly want?"

"What's the booby prize?" the doctor asked, sliding the gear into first.

Dana's half-smile made an appearance in response to her partner's wit. "I could go for some fruit tonight," she remarked as they left the garage. Rain pelted the thin car-shell like a gaggle of geese let loose overhead.

"Do we have any fruit at home?" the doctor asked while making a left turn across two lanes.


The doctor navigated the Jeep a few blocks to the interstate, then drove the little vehicle into the current of water rushing down the on-ramp. The traffic into which she merged moved slowly, the constant flicker of red brake-lights illuminating the highway for miles ahead. "Jesus, you dumb fuck!" she grumbled under her breath as she tried to switch lanes. Dana had unconsciously braced her body with her arm against the ceiling of the Jeep. Grace slammed on the brakes. "You see that? She cut me off!" she yelled, causing Dana to flinch. "That freak cut me off!"

"Grace, take the next exit." Dana's voice had dropped an octave.

"Why?" Grace replied, unable to take her eyes off the jerking traffic.

"There's a little Italian groceria at the next exit with great fruit and veggies." Which was basically true. That, and the fact that Grace's driving was making her as tight as a high-E string.

Grace complied, a bit relieved to leave the highway. She slowly maneuvered to the off-ramp, following Dana's instructions until they were in front of Bartolucci's Groceria. "Want anything special?" Dana asked.

"Please, no asparagus, not tonight. Okay?" the blonde asked as she leaned over to give her dark-haired lover a quick kiss.

"Be right back," Dana replied after her smooch. Long legs slid out of the Jeep, large feet landing in a puddle. A curse followed as she sprinted through the hard, cold rain across the sidewalk into the grocery. Wipers beat back and forth, a rhythm completely off from the back-beat of the Ella Fitzgerald tune playing on the audio system. Headlights and the spray of water from the cars passing by washed the car window. A young woman and a man hurried by and darted under the cover of a storefront awning. Grace watched through the cascade of water as their blurry shapes embraced and kissed. The woman accidentally knocked the man's Angels baseball cap off his head and then replaced it. They laughed. Grace sat in shock, watching Sam Greer and Lola Lysom kissing in the rain.

After a few minutes, the couple moved out again quickly, then sprinted down the street past the groceria. Grace slid the Wrangler into gear to follow the lovers for three blocks to a brownstone apartment building. Making a mental note of the building number into which the lovers had disappeared, she circled back to the grocery store.

A moment later Dana darted out from under the groceria awning, her arms loaded with two plastic sacks of fruits and vegetables. Giving the doctor a wary look, she slammed the door closed, her dark hair soaked, her gray sweater and slacks black with dampness. "I'm wearing wool, Grace" was all she said. Dana could feel the clothes shrinking around her skin. The blonde reached into the back seat and pulled a towel out of her gym bag and handed it to her wet friend.

"Have you been waiting long?" she asked innocently.

Dana frowned. "" She tossed the wet towel playfully at the doctor.

"I think Sam Greer tried to blow up the lab."

Pale blue eyes peered out from behind wet bangs. "Nice subject change. But the fact remains, you abandoned me in the rain."

"I left because I saw Sam Greer and Lola Lysom not more than five minutes ago and followed them to a building down the street."

Dana adjusted her wet body in the seat. "Lola lives down here. Rachel and I dropped her off one day last week. That's how I discovered this place." She shifted again. "Sam Greer, though--are you sure?"

"I would recognize that shit anywhere. We have to tell the police."

"This could screw up Spinnelli and Ryan's plan."

"But if Reichert is behind this, he'll just find another angle and use it to his advantage."

"Then we have to take them all down at the same time," the nano tech stated.

"Lena Whitley--she's the take-down queen," Grace suggested.

"I don't want to use her."

"'Use her.' That sounds so ugly. We'll enlist her help, Dana."

"No way!"

"I think we should give her a chance. She's brilliant and honest, and Rachel adores her."

"Rachel likes everyone who idolizes her."

"No--I think Rachel is really impressed with her. And it takes a lot to impress Rachel."

"I don't trust her."

"You trust hardly anyone. And we need someone on the inside, someone who's respectable enough to convince the NSA to back off. And if it is Reichert, we need to get him out of our hair now."

Dana folded her arms across her chest and pouted. "We can't just walk up to her and say, 'Your partners are working for the criminally insane.'"

"Why not?"

"Because she'll think we're fucking nuts."

"We are nuts." Grace pulled out into traffic.

"She'll hightail it back to Spinnelli and Ryan, and whoever they're working for will know we're on to them."

"What do we do, then?" Grace asked.

"I'm thinking," Dana replied, a dark look of concentration clouding her eyes.

Lena Whitley wanted to kick herself--hard--as she walked down the carpeted hallway to her hotel room. She had wanted to meet Dr. Jones for years. And now that she had come into contact, she had acted like an awestruck groupie. She could feel herself still smiling that stupid grin, and the muscles in her face were hurting from it. Endorphins still coursed through her body, and her stomach quivered.

The challenge of trying to follow all of the loops and functions of the nano applications, even with Dr. Jones' help, had exhausted her both mentally and physically. She had wanted desperately to impress the politically-incorrect woman. She sighed and let herself into her hotel room with a swipe of the keycard. "What's wrong with you?" she asked herself as she flopped back on the puce, flame-retardant bedspread. Clutching a pillow to her chest, she closed her eyes. Images of Rachel Jones and that wicked, childish glint floated into her daydream. She took a deep breath and scolded herself, "Get a life, girlfriend! You're a professional and she's a suspect."

A shower and food was what she needed, not an erotic fantasy. She had turned down the offer of late dinner with the programming guru, but she could not help wondering what the evening could have been. What was it about quirky professor-types that drew her? Brains and affectations sucked her in every time. "Brainy chicks," she mumbled, forgetting the fact that she was one of them. She walked over to her suitcase and unbuttoned her gray suitcoat, hanging it up neatly in the closet. She reached around and unzipped her matching skirt and flung it over the back of a nearby chair.

A few minutes later and she was ensconced in a steaming hot bath, the rushing water from the faucet drowning out the sounds of the people in the room next to hers. Lena closed her eyes and let the heat bring relief to her body and soul.

Two intruders moved silently into the room, the electronic lock barely slowing them down. The smaller of the two moved quietly across the carpet and grabbed the agent's suitcase and briefcase, then loaded them onto a luggage cart while the other held the door. When the belongings were loaded, the two directed their attention to the bathroom door. Slowly the taller intruder twisted the knob and cracked the door enough to see the handgun resting on a washcloth on the back of the toilet. The first assailant touched the other on the shoulder and made black-gloved fingers into the shape of a gun. The other nodded acknowledgment.

Lena reacted even before the door crashed against the door pad, the door springing back and knocking the second intruder into the vanity and then to the floor. But she was too late. The gun had been knocked to the floor by the first masked assailant, who was already upon her, the leather gloves claiming her with a vice-hold around her biceps. The agent's feet were pulled out of the soapy water as she was lifted, a gloved hand covering her mouth, muffling her scream. She raised her legs and, planting her feet on the tiled walls, pushed off, forcing her captor across the room and into the other assailant, who was now sitting up. All three lay in a pile, but the strong arms had not released her. The woman tried a heel to the attacker's knee, the solid crunch eliciting a yelp. Then, in a violent flipping movement, Lena found herself jerked face-down, her nose pressed hard into the carpet, her arms pinned tightly behind her, and a leg trapping her knees on the floor. A washcloth was shoved into her mouth. She heard more movement behind her, the door opened and closed, and then she felt the prick of a needle in her naked buttock. A warm rush of liquid flowed into her skin. The only sound besides her grunting was the ragged breathing of the intruders as they waited for the drug to send Agent Lena Whitley into dreamland, where she was much less detrimental to their physical well-being.

When she awoke she was swaying, literally, the stench of fish seeping up through the floor mixing with ethanol fumes, and the constant hum of a powerful inboard droning in her ears. A wave of nausea rushed over her, and she thought she was going to vomit. It felt like a hangover, a tequila hangover. Lena was lying on her right side on a blanket in a small instrumentation room, her arms bound with cord in front of her. She was no longer naked but was dressed in her blue jeans and a white T-shirt.

The world dipped, then undulated sideways several times, jiggling her already quaky stomach.

"So you kidnap her?! You attack her in the bathtub, knock her out with God-knows-what, and then zip her up into a duffel bag and transport her across three states, and that's your idea of dealing with the situation?!"

Lena immediately recognized the angry voice as belonging to Dr. Jones.

"What do you expect, given three hours to plan it?" an even, deep voice replied.

A loud, sarcastic laugh. "You have fucking lost it, Doc! She's a federal agent. You don't kidnap federal agents and get away with it, no matter how good your reason is. And I don't care what your plan is. This is never going to work. If I had known this was why you wanted me to meet you here, I would have driven in the opposite direction."

"Will you knock it off!" Grace Wilson interrupted. "Jesus, Rachel. It's the only way we could get her away from Spinnelli and Reichert's influence long enough to talk to her."

"Don't you even start with me, Queenie! I'm pissed at you too. You know better! And she's still out cold, Grace. I thought you said you used a mild sedative."

"I did!"

"Then why is she still unconscious?"

"Maybe she was exhausted from warding off all of your sexual advances yesterday," Dana growled.

'I guess I could have tried your approach--drugged her and dragged her off to my cave. Did you even consider talking to her first?"

Dana began to yell as well. "We're dealing with Karl Reichert, Rachel, not something we can take a chance with. Desperate times call for--"

"--Don't give me that shit! This is you losing control again, just like San Francisco. This is you saying 'Fuck everyone.' Or--don't tell me--Cassandra told you to do it!"

"Rachel!" Grace's voice had grown deep and strong. "What do you think would happen to Agent Whitley if Reichert knew that she was on to him?

Lena took mental notes as she lay there. Who was Karl Reichert? Yes, they had made a mistake by kidnapping her, and once the nausea subsided she was going to make them pay for the transgression. Hell, she was going to make them sorry now--by spewing. And she did. The noise of her retching brought Grace Wilson into the stuffy room, Dana Papadopolis and a still angry, but concerned Rachel Jones flanking the doctor.

Lena rolled up onto her knees. "You three are in so much fucking trouble!" she threatened on a groan, and then a wave of dizziness hit her with a swell. She closed her eyes hard to blanch out the sickness.

Dana knelt down beside her and quietly untied Lena's hands and feet while Grace wiped the spit-up from the woman's face. Firmly grasping the agent's hands, the nano tech lifted the woman to her feet. "Why don't you come topside and get some fresh air," she said quietly, practically carrying the agent out the door. Dana set her down on a padded bench and released her hold.

The bright sun stung Lena's eyes, but the fresh, chill air rushing in and out of her lungs felt good and reassuring. Squinting, she looked out across the expanse of choppy blue sea but could not see land in any direction. "What time is it?"

Dana Papadopolis looked up at the sun. "Ten-thirty."

Rachel came over to the captive, cautiously, and sat down next to her on the bench. "Are you okay, Lena?" she asked, concerned expressed both by her tone and by her shaking hand as she handed over a can of Ginger Ale.

"No!" Lena replied angrily, furious that Dr. Jones was involved with Papadopolis. But she took the proffered pop anyway and guzzled it down. It burned as it quenched, then made her burp. She sighed, exhausted, hungry, and sore. That's when she noticed the black labrador snoozing on a corner of the deck. Dr. Wilson emerged with a pail full of vomit-soaked paper towels and a sour look on her face. She tossed the contents into a large barrel.

The agent took another gulp. The tingle on her tongue felt good.

"You should slow down on that," Rachel said softly.

The woman ignored the hacker, directing her attention to Dana, who was flexing and massaging her right knee.

I did that, Lena thought, and snickered, and she felt good about having made the nano tech pay for attacking her. She finally broke the silence. "Where exactly are we?"

"We're off the coast of Maine," the doctor answered, sipping a can of Coke. She looked a little green herself.

"It's a ten-mile swim thataway," Dana replied, pointing west. "In case you get any ideas."

"Where did you get the boat?"

"None of your business!" Dana snapped. The doctor walked over to the tall, fierce woman and whispered something to her. The tech's look softened as they watched the doctor find a seat on a hard bench.

"As far as I'm concerned, you're all going away for life for this."

Dana rolled her eyes and picked up a heavy-duty fishing pole lying on the edge of the deck. She baited a large hook with stinky fish and cast her line off the back of the boat. The black dog climbed to her feet and stretched and then took a seat at the nano tech's feet.

"Figures you would fish when the rest of our lives are at stake, Doc!" Rachel remarked. A moment later the whiz of the fishing reel cut through the air, then the click of the lock. Dana worked the fish for several minutes before landing it.

"Feel better?" the hacker asked sarcastically.

"Much," Dana answered, tossing the fish at the hacker. It bounced off her and flopped around on the deck until the dog pinned it down with her front paws. Dana turned her back to the hacker, baited, and cast her line back into the water.

Rachel rushed over to the tech. "What the hell is wrong with you?" She spun Doc roughly by the shoulder to face her. In a nanosecond Grace had inserted her body between the two women.

"What are you so spun up about, Rachel?" Dana hissed through clenched teeth. "This woman is trying to take the project down, maybe even you. What makes you think she's not working for them? I'm giving her a chance. I don't have to do that."

"She's right, Rach."

"Don't start with me," Rachel said roughly. "I expected more from you."

"Excuse me. But who would I be working with? I work for the FBI."

"Karl Reichert," Rachel explained.

"Who is Karl Reichert?"

"No wonder Spinnelli picked you," Dana commented wryly.

"Do you remember the nano virus in California?" Rachel received a nod from the federal agent. "He released the Beta in California. Dana used to work for him. We think that Spinnelli and Ryan are working for him now. They aren't FBI."

"They're NSA," Grace explained.

"I thought the person responsible for LA was dead. That's what the news reports said."

Dana laughed.

"He's very much alive. We had a situation last year with him in San Francisco, and we think he may be trying to even the score." Rachel's voice was gentle with the woman.

"You think he exploded the lab?"

"No, that was probably Sam Greer, Dana's predecessor."

"Mm-hmm. You all sound paranoid to me."

Dana laughed again.

"How do you know Spinnelli and Ryan are NSA?"

"Their employment records were created only a few days ago by someone with an NSA account," the hacker explained.

"So you have been in our personnel database. That's a felony, Dr. Jones."

Dana shook her head knowingly as the hacker gave herself up to this woman, and reeled in her line. Rachel scowled at the tech and then turned back to Lena. "What do you call what they're doing, Lena?"

"You have proof that they're working for this Reichert person?"

"No. We need help with that."

"Aha! You want me to help you conspire against the United States Government. You're just as crazy as those two!"

"Crazier, actually," Rachel said with a tiny smile, but then she waved her hands as if that were not the point. "Lena, I need you to trust me."

The bedraggled agent was about to laugh, but something in the hacker's soft eyes and voice was so genuine and so different from the amused easiness she had seen and heard the previous day that she knew the woman was being honest, or so she hoped.

"What could I possibly do that would help you, Dr. Jones?"

Grace was assisting Lena with setting up the agent's laptop and a cellular link in the instrument room while Dana and Rachel were trying to work out their differences on deck.

"Why do you do it?" Lena asked the doctor.

"Do what?" the doctor asked absently, flipping on a power switch on the wall. Nothing happened.

"Do whatever she tells you to do." Lena leaned around and turned on the power switch on her laptop. "Try it again."

The doctor flipped the switch into the "on" position again, and the little machine powered up.

"Because I trust her more than I do myself."

"Wow" was all that Lena could reply, taking a seat on a metal chair in front of her machine. A screw loose in that blond head, she thought.

"You don't know her very well, Ms. Whitley. There's an honor code that governs her actions."

"Honor code? She's the violent sociopath who kidnapped me. That tells me a lot about her honor code, and a hell of a lot about her character too."

"Umm...kidnapping you was my idea."

The brown eyes grew wide.

"She didn't want to have anything to do with you at all."

"Tell me. Did Rachel have anything to do with Karl Reichert's work?"

"Not until after Los Angeles. She helped Dana destroy the lab and helped us out in San Francisco. Is that important to you?"

Lena looked into the green eyes and admitted more than she had ever expected she would with one word. "Yes."


"I don't think I could accept her if she had been part of that virus project."


"Hey, you two," Rachel said, coming into the cabin, rubbing her hands together earnestly. "Are we ready?"

"How's Captain Bligh?" the agent asked.

"She wants you, Grace. I think her knee hurts."

The doctor's face tightened, clearly showing her concern as she tried to leave the room without running.

"Lena, I want to apologize for the way you've been treated. Sometimes things with these two can get a little strange, and, well, we find ourselves in places that maybe we wouldn't normally find ourselves in."

"What are you saying...that you're just a normal group of people? Sorry, but I don't think so. You are not ordinary, Rachel Jones, whether you're mixed up with Frick and Frack or not."

"I'm not that different either."

The two sets of brown eyes regarded each other with the tenderness of the kindred. "Do you think you can convince Spinnelli and Ryan that you found what they need?" Rachel finally asked.

"I don't know." Lena swallowed, knowing that if she did this she would be breaking several major laws, but if these crazy women were really telling her the truth, it was the right thing to do.

The two sat side by side in the metal chairs, going through the mail files until they finally found something they could use.

"These files came up on the search when you sent the program to fetch my mail files?" Rachel asked the take-down specialist.

"Yes. And only after I accessed the server on the God level."

"Those are planted files," she explained, rubbing her chin, clearly perplexed. The files were a series of text e-mails between Rachel Jones and Sam Greer detailing a conspiracy to destroy the laboratory because of a failing project. She stroked the keys until the true creator of the files was revealed through the scrambled electronic footprints. "Fucking NSA."

"Shit! Well, I guess that doesn't leave me many doubts as to your story." Lena could see the NSA electronic dog-tag, the files only a week old. "These will be easy to show as plants."

"Be careful not to finger them specifically."

Dr. Jones linked into the project server and downloaded all of Lola's files. It took them only ten minutes in her electronic recycle bin to find incriminating evidence connecting her to Greer. "Dumb kid," Rachel said, shaking her head in disgust.

"How do we deal with Spinnelli?" Agent Whitley asked.

"We give them the applications. I've altered them already, so they won't do him any good."

"You mean they don't work?"

"Not anymore they don't."

"What if it's not Reichert?"

"It's probably the warfare department. No harm, no foul."

"Except that you kidnapped me for no reason."

"At least you got to go on a cruise," the hacker joked.

"I would have preferred dry land."

"Doc brought you here because she suspected you might have a LoJack implant, and this is out of range."

"A LoJack implant? Geez, she's paranoid."

Rachel chuckled. "She also said that if you didn't believe us after all was said and done, she would turn herself in to the authorities."

"Aren't you afraid that one of Reichert's techs may discover the changes you made and recreate the working applications?"

"Nope. Not a chance."

"You're overconfident, Rachel."

The hacker liked that Lena had called her by her first name and not the stuffy title "Dr. Jones." "I used the butterfly pattern."

"The butterfly pattern. That's chaos--there's no pattern in chaos."


Both women turned at the sound of Grace yelling to Dana to "turn right."

"It's 'port,' Grace!" Dana yelled back from the tower. The two women in the room began the shutdown macro for the laptop and packed up. A few minutes later they emerged from the cabin, just in time to watch Grace toss a line to a dock hand.

"Hey, there, Spider!" Dana greeted the young man tying the boat to the dock. She cut the engine and then there was a loud thud and yelp as she jumped from the tower to the deck.

"Goddammit, Dana!" Grace scolded the nano tech, who was now rocking back and forth, clutching her knee to her chest in extreme pain. Lena still took a little pride in having done that after the humiliation of having been shoved naked into a duffel bag and driven to Maine. Spider finished tying off while Grace attended to her fallen nano tech. Eventually Grace was able to help her to her feet, the tall brunette using the smaller woman as a crutch.Rachel and Lena carried the belongings off the boat to the wharf parking lot.

"What happened, Skipper?" Spider asked Dana. "One of them fish finally get the best of ya?"

"Not a fish," Grace said as Dana faltered when she stepped onto the slippery dock.

"Tell Booger thanks for lending me the boat," Dana said, wincing when she placed weight on the knee.

"Ayuh, will do." Spider had let his curly blond hair grow long, and he was wearing a "You're not from 'round here, are ya?" red baseball cap on his head to control the unruly hair.

"I think you tore something," Grace whispered to her lover.

"No, just twisted it. A little ice will cure it."

Rachel and Lena were loading Kev Grinchgold's borrowed Explorer with the suitcases and cooler, a fish lying on top of the sodas. "Ick!" Rachel said and decided to pass on another soda. The dog climbed into the back, next to the cooler. "You smell as bad as that fish," Rachel told the dog and closed the hatch.

"I hope this truck can haul ass, because someone is going to be looking for me," Lena remarked caustically to the injured Dana.

"It will if I drive," Rachel said with a smirk.

"No!" Grace and Dana replied quickly in unison. Dana climbed into the passenger seat. "Grace will drive," she decided, handing the blonde the keys. A few minutes later they were headed back down I-95, next stop New Jersey.

Lena had easily explained her disappearance to Spinnelli and Ryan. She told them she had spent the day at the FBI computer lab in New Jersey to use some diagnostic software she needed. She also mentioned on the phone that she had found some "strange files" on the server that she needed to talk to them about. She invited them to the FBI facility across the street from Gate's Tower.

She now sat across from the two agents in a strategy room, a detailed written report of her findings lying in front of both men.

"Do you know who planted the files?" Ryan asked her.

"No, just that they were placed on the server less than a week ago. I've sent a full report to my group manager and my division manager. My suspicion is that it was Ms. Lysom." This was for her own protection; they did know who had planted the files. She and Rachel had spent the evening tracing the electronic identification to a computer technician in Mclean, Virginia. Now for the trump card. She directed the men to the section of the report that detailed the correspondence linking Lola Lysom to Sam Greer. "The local police obtained and put out warrants for both individuals after I notified them of my findings."

Ryan flipped through the pages. "Good work, Whitley."

"What about the other files?" Spinnelli finally broke his silence.

"You mean the technical files?"


"What about them?"

"I would like to take them back to our specialists. Do you have them?"

She could see the sweat beading on Spinnelli's forehead. He was panicking.

"Do you have them?"

Lena waited before answering. She knew now she had made the right choice. She slipped her hand into the pocket of her computer case and withdrew several CD Roms. She slid them across the table to the two NSA agents. "These are all of the applications that the nano project claims to be using. I'm no specialist when it comes to nano technology, so I could not determine if they're in fact worth anything, but I would assume that Sam Greer's desperate action is a good indication that they're close to completing the project."

"We'll take them to our specialists and have them take a look," Ryan explained, taking the discs from the table.

"Great! If you're finished with me, I have several cases I left dangling that I have to take care of."

Ryan and Spinnelli thanked her again for her help before she left them alone with their booty.

Rachel Jones was waiting for her when the elevator doors opened. Together they walked into the main room of the apartment, where three televisions were playing three different college basketball games. The nano tech had her leg propped up on the doctor's lap, an ice pack on the knee, and the two women were sharing a package of Oreo cookies. Grace was opening a sandwich cookie, holding it out for the nano tech to take the creamy filling, and then eating the chocolate part herself.

"I hate Duke," Lena said as a Blue Devil hit another three-pointer. She had gone to UNC and played basketball for them.

"Want a Corona?" Rachel asked her.

"I would love one," the agent replied, following the hacker into the postmodern kitchen.

"How did it go?" the hacker asked nervously once they were alone.

"Perfectly. They left with the altered software, and Spinnelli almost broke."

"We've corrupted you," Rachel said with a sly smile.


"What will your mother say?"

"I'm not sure I'm going to share this with her. Some things moms really don't need to know, especially my mom."

Rachel handed the cyber cop a Corona and a lime wedge. "Want to stay for the weekend to watch the games?"

"All weekend?"

"If you want," the hacker said hesitantly.

"I...I do. Are they staying all weekend?"

"No, they're going home tomorrow with their smelly dog. You really messed up Doc's knee, by the way."

"She grabbed my breast."

"Ha. Don't tell Queenie that." Rachel poured moonshine into her large glass mug. "Do you do that to anyone who grabs your breasts?"

"Not everyone."

Two voices hooted in the other room, breaking the sexual tension. "Go change your clothes and come watch the games."

A few minutes later Lena joined the fold, a fresh Corona awaiting her on the cocktail table. Grace welcomed her with a smile and then offered Dana another cookie.

"Who's winning?" she asked, taking a seat next to Rachel.

"UNC," Dana answered quietly without looking at the agent. "By two."

Lena nodded and picked up the fresh beer. "Who are you rooting for?"

"UNC. I hate Duke."

Okay, maybe Lena could learn to like the nano tech after all.

_ February 1999 by Jules Mills

Continued in Nano 7 - Work and Energy

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