The door flew open and the attendant stood there in shock.
“What on Earth happened here? Who is this woman?”
“I don’t know, it looks like she was bringing our champagne and slipped on something. I think she hit her head, can you call an ambulance?” The woman had already pulled an emergency phone from the wall and was talking rapidly into it.
“Tori I want to leave now. No massage for me today, let’s go get dressed.” Yeun-Ja was sitting up; mud was flaking from her skin in large pieces.
“I agree, I feel like getting this dirt cleaned off and getting dressed again. Besides, Eugene is probably wearing a hole in the waiting room with his pacing.” She laughed and the attendant smiled a thin-lipped artificial smile.
“Very well, this way please. I will show you to the showers ladies.” As they left, wrapping plush towels around their bodies a pair of EMT’s ran through the door.
Victoria recognized one of them from outside the elevator about an hour before and hoped the mud plastering her face and hair would be sufficient camouflage. He gave her a quizzical look but before he could say anything the woman on the floor moaned softly and he hurried on to help her.
The shower was amazing, not only was there a large nozzle overhead but there was a detachable wand that made it easy to sluice the layer of dried clay off their bodies. Once they were both clean they came back into the dressing room where Victoria found her freshly dry cleaned dress hanging next to a Kelly green jumper, white button down shirt, stockings and a pair of Mary Jane’s, apparently intended for Yeun-Ja.
“Where are my clothes? Why is this here?” She gave the attendant a confused look.
“I apologize miss, but your old clothes did not fit you and I wasn’t sure which room was yours in order to fetch some of your personal things. I thought you might appreciate more appropriate attire?”
Yeun-Ja fingered the fabric of the shirt and shrugged “Thank you; I will wear these until I can retrieve clothes from my room.”
While Victoria finished dressing and re-applying her makeup Yeun-Ja retrieved her netbook and custom hardware from the locker. After giving herself a once-over glance in the mirror, Victoria looked at her friend.
“How do I look? That jumper is absolutely adorable; green is a good color for you Yuen-Ja.”
“You look like a movie star or a model.” The girl said, “Are you a model Toria? How does the dress stay on? It looks like it could just fall off if you moved too quickly, that strap around your neck doesn’t look very strong. You aren’t really able to wear much under it either, that doesn’t seem very practical.”
“It’s not about being practical, and I suppose I am a model in some ways.” Victoria said with a slightly ironic smile, “I’m showing off Adam to a group of medical technology investors today, so I need to make sure they can see what he looks like. I need to help Eugene fund more research and development so he can help more people like he helped me.”
“Why did you attack that woman in the sun room? Was she one of the Killers from before? “ She looked so nervous that Victoria reached out and gave her a quick squeeze around the shoulders.
“Adam knows more than I do about these things but we worked together this time. He helped me see that she was military trained by the way she moved, and she was bringing the wrong number of glasses.” Said Victoria with a grim smile, “There’s no way anyone in their right mind would try to serve someone as young as you alcohol. I’m not sure if she was from before or someone new but I am certain she wasn’t an employee of the spa.”
“If Adam says she is bad then she must be bad for real.” The girl smiled in relief, “I’m glad you two are with me Toria, and I’m happy you seem to be treating Adam better too. I was worried about him, but now I see that you trust him and care for him just as he does you.”
With that she took Victoria’s hand and headed out to the waiting room where Eugene sat at a table laden with sushi. The chopsticks in his right hand were flickering between dishes and conveying morsels to his mouth while he was typing on Victoria’s diagnostic laptop with the other. When they entered, he looked up and broke into a smile.
“I was hoping you were about done! Good timing, look at this spread. I haven’t had Unagi this good in years, oh and you have to try this Tako, it’s heavenly.”
“Actually Eugene, we need to go.” Victoria did pause to snag a piece of fatty tuna before continuing. “Don’t we have a conference to get to?”
“It’s fine, I’m doing the prep work right now. Actually I’m just about done. They were nice enough to get your laptop and bring it down here once I gave them your room number.”
“I want to make sure everything goes smoothly though. We really should be on our way.” Said Victoria, watching Yeun-Ja munching on some salmon and eyeing a small dish of urchin roe. “I will admit that this is really tasty though.”
When he still didn’t move, she pulled her phone from her purse and sent him a text. “Damn it, we were attacked in there and she could regain consciousness at any time. We need to get the HELL out of here!”
His phone chimed and he glanced at it, his face going pale. “You’re right I suppose, it just seems like a waste.” He stood and closed the laptop, grabbed another piece of octopus and made his way towards the door.
They arrived at the conference hall with about an hour before it was slated to start. Even this early the floor was crowded with presenters and medical industry representatives. Victoria saw all kinds of prosthetic devices from lifelike reproductions of partial limbs to pieces with only passing resemblance to the body parts they replaced but with more functional capability. None of them came close to the technical complexity of hers though, only a few even used nerve function at all, and even then it appeared they were only rudimentary devices.
Before they had entered the hall, Eugene had paused and put his jacket around her shoulders. “No reason to spoil the surprise.” He had whispered with that grin that crinkled the corners of his eyes, “They won’t know what hit them when you walk out on stage.”
Now that they were inside, she understood his excitement and desire for secrecy. He obviously knew quite a few of the industry professionals and developers that were here. Most of them didn’t appear very happy to see him.
“Back again eh Arlington?” A man who wore a complicated looking metal forearm in place of a left hand that looked as though it had different interchangeable hands gave him a scornful look. His question caused nearby presenters to turn and glare their direction.
“Looking for some sucker desperate enough to die for your experiments? Trying to lure them in with cute young girls won’t get you any farther than false promises!”
“Eugene, why don’t you just give it up? It’s a great concept but this is the real world. I heard a rumor that someone had completed the procedure a few months ago but they quickly died except for some internet conspiracy nonsense. I tried to contact you but apparently you changed your cell number. What’s the matter? I thought there were no hard feelings from my realistic, albeit harsh review of your technology.”
“What are YOU doing here? This conference if for serious medical professionals and REAL prosthetic designers, not science fiction wannabe’s!”
Eugene just steered her and Yeun-Ja through the crowd without comment to speak with the main organizer. He was an athletic looking man in his late forties whose legs ended just below the knee and were replaced with wild-looking carbon fiber arcs. Victoria had seen similar prosthetics on television before her surgery, mostly worn by veterans who had stepped on landmines.
“Dr. Arlington, you’re sure you want to do this?” He fixed Eugene with a penetrating stare. “This is like your last hurrah, if you don’t have something amazing to show us there’s just no way I can allow you back next year. No animal experiments or half-baked slide shows with computer generated images of what could be this time right?”
“Oh, I think you will all be surprised by my offering this year Dr. Franklin.” Eugene said with a wry grin, “Now I’m going to need the digital projector to hook up to a HDMI or VGA connection from the podium. If you have a presentation mouse that’d be very helpful as well.”
“Sure thing, I am all set up there for digital connections. The hookups should be underneath the podium and I’ve got a wireless keyboard and mouse setup right on top for you to use.” He shook Eugene’s hand, “I hope you have made some interesting progress this time Eugene. I really like the theories you developed but without proof of practical application it’s just too risky for anyone to commit any amount of money to.”
“I understand, the majority of investors here don’t have much of a technical background and my work does fly directly in the face of accepted medical science. I should change a few minds today though. Is everything on schedule? Are we still the third presenters?”
“Yeah, number three. Sorry, I know you wanted a later slot so that more of the heavy hitters would be here.”
“No problem, this is just the first of several appearances we intend to make. If they don’t get in touch with me at this one, they will be sure to make contact before the next time.” He turned towards Victoria, “Let’s get into the wings and prepare, you remember what I had in mind right?”
Victoria gave him a grin, “You got it Doc. Let’s knock ‘em dead!” She made a mental note to ask him why he hadn’t shown his Neurosynth fluid and the soldiers with robotic bits off.
“What should I do Tori? Can I help out?” Yeun-Ja was standing to one side looking curiously at her surroundings.
”Watch for anything unusual and help Eugene with the presentation if he needs it. Mostly just enjoy the show!” She said in Mandarin.
“I will go to the audio visual display booth.” Yuen-Ja said imperiously, “I will ensure that things go well, they do not seem very skilled.”
“Yuen-Ja will take care of your effects Eugene.” Victoria said, “She seems to think they are lacking in the A/V department.”
She couldn’t tell if this relieved him or worried him, but at very least he wouldn’t need to worry about her getting in the way or wandering off and she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone hurting the girl. The odds of hired assassins tracking her down up there were pretty slim.