Dace burst out laughing, “Ya call this fine? I think you’re vastly overestimating the situation. I’ll be here if ya want me or not, at least until the end of the year. Get any packages from a secret admirer lately?”
“What exactly do you know about that?” Victoria stopped in the middle of the hallway and pivoted on one foot to face the other woman. The extra height granted by her new legs put her a good four inches above Dace. “You’d better start talking; I’ve had a bad day.”
“Oh give me a goddamn break. You were probably wearing what…” Dace glanced at her, giving her a quick once over, “That charm bracelet on the mission weren’t ya?”
Victoria closed her eyes and activated the remnants of the program Adam had salvaged from the shit virus the DOD had given her. The air around her came alive with lines representing electronic signals. With some trepidation she looked at her wrist. The bracelet was shining in the sunlight, but showed no signs of electric transmissions.
“Negative, I received this today. Besides, the bracelet is inert. Wait, you think Dmitri is the one who sent me these?” Victoria folded her arms. “He’s not exactly a secret, if he wanted to give me a present he would have just handed it to me. Besides, didn’t I tell you on the Misery that I had given him our location?”
“Maybe yer right. Whatever the case I’d think twice before accepting gifts from unknown sources, especially ones who are willing to blithely break into your locker to give them to you.”
“OK I suppose I’m not exactly your average high school girl anymore am I? I’ll be more cautious if you back off a little, I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder all the damn time. Deal?”
Dace stuck out her hand and Victoria took it. “Deal. Want a ride home?”
“Naw, it’s only six blocks, I’ll be fine.” Victoria said.
“Are you sure? Looks to me like ya could use a lift.” Dace pointed at Victoria’s left leg. There was a bright spot of blood on one of her white stockings. “Don’t that hurt?”
“Shit!” Victoria pulled her skirt up just far enough to reveal the socket for her prosthetic leg. “He’s turned off the pain sensitive nerve endings but that’s a double edged sword, it’s hard for me to tell when I’m overdoing it. I’d appreciate a ride, thanks.”
“By ‘he’ I’m assuming you mean your A.I.? I still can’t believe you let them put that thing in your head.” Dace shuddered, “It’s just unnatural ya know?”
“Shhhh, that’s not exactly common knowledge around here.”
“I hate to break it to you Victoria, but yer national news. Everyone who ain’t been living under a rock or in an Amish community knows about you. If they ain’t asking questions it’s either because they’re scared or they don’t give a shit.”
“I mean the A.I. bit, not the spine transplant. Let’s not stir up the peasants OK?” Said Victoria.
They were leaving the school building now and heading for the parking lot. “Ya worried about those fundamentalist nutjobs?” Asked Dace.
“Who? Oh those idiots who were spouting nonsense about this being one of the signs of the apocalypse or something?” Victoria shook her head, “No, I think the cops put a damper on their enthusiasm a while back. I just don’t want people, especially my friends, to be more uncomfortable than they already are.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that Victoria, zealots are usually pretty persistent. Don’t underestimate your friends either, if they ain’t tossed you to the curb yet they probably won’t.” The older woman shook her head. “I mean David certainly ain’t gonna freak; Jesus he designed your latest hardware didn’t he?”
“You know more than you’re saying about that group of so-called fundamentalists don’t you?” Victoria asked, fixing Dace with a level stare.
The other woman ignored the look and the comment, opening the door to an aging Toyota Landcruiser. “Here’s my wheels, hop in, the door’s unlocked.”
“I want to know what you know.” Said Victoria, climbing in the passenger’s seat. The truck was lifted several inches to accommodate its aggressive off road tires, had heavy duty bumpers with tow hooks and even a mean looking winch on the front.
“If you really are here to help me out wouldn’t it be a good idea to share information with me that might save my life?” She began to slide her stockings off her legs, not wanting to leave them on in case her mother saw the blood.
“Hey, I never said I was here to help. I said I was here to keep an eye on things.” Dace said with a fiendish grin. “Don’t sweat it; I won’t let anything happen to ya. Like I said before I owe ya for bailing my team out; least I can do is return the favor. Besides, a quarter billion dollars’ worth of DOD funding is walking around with ya. We ain’t gonna just ignore that investment.”
“So why did you say your age is a state secret?” Victoria was hoping the sudden change of subject would rattle an answer free.
“Cause it is. You ain’t the only one who’s had some work done.” Dace backed out of the parking space. “Fine, we been keepin an eye on some key players in that movement. We ain’t sure why they’re doin what they’re doin yet but that don’t matter. Seems there’s something big in the works but we ain’t been able to find out what it is yet either so the General decided to have someone close to ya just in case shit hits the fan. That’s me.”
“Thanks I suppose.” They were turning down Honeysuckle Terrace, heading for her house now.
“You’re welcome, I guess.” Dace chuckled. “Damn I wish there’d been girls like you when I was in high school. I might not have dropped out.”