There was a knock on Irene’s door. Irene tensed, and Tucker rolled off his chair, into a crouch. Mikaela stopped at a mirror beside the door, and helped a duplicate crawl out of it. The duplicate immediately flattened herself against the wall, as Mikaela checked through the peephole. “False alarm,” she said, and unlocked the door.
Laren entered, stopping to do a double-take when she noticed Mikaela’s duplicate. “That’s weird,” Laren said. “You know that’s weird, right?” The double put out her tongue, before climbing back inside the mirror.
“Weird feels normal the longer you do it,” Mikaela said with a shrug.
“Can I borrow your multiple friend?” Laren asked neither of them in particular.
“Are you asking because otherwise it would be a kidnapping?” Tucker asked.
“I’m asking to be polite, and because something tells me making any kind of joke, among 3 white women, about renting or putting a down payment on the sole woman of color in the room, would be in poor taste.”
“I’ve got some Puerto Rican ancestry,” Tucker offered.
“Though the question stands,” Laren reiterated a little testily.
“She’s a free woman. You cool, Kae?”
“Sure,” Mikaeka said. “I’m pretty sure I could pull an extra out of each lens of her aviators; I’ll be fine. Can you drop me off at my place when we’re done?”
“Sure,” Laren said.
“Text me when you’re home safe,” Tucker said.
“I will,” Mikaela said, shutting the door behind herself. She followed Laren down to a rented black sedan with tinted windows. Laren opened the passenger side door for her, before getting in on the driver’s side.
“So, I’m assuming you aren’t just here to show off your rental car,” Mikaela said.
“I’m starting a ride share for bored government agents,” Laren deadpanned. “How would you like a job?”
“I’m not actually a Fed, so…”
“Sorry, only the first half of that was a joke. The job offer is legit. Though I suppose it’s more that I’m offering to put the resources of my position behind securing you the job.”
“Is the job being confused by you? Because I feel like I’m already doing that at a professional level.”
“Heh. No. See, in my spare time I’ve tracked down that big, weird, egg portal thing that militia brought to your campus. It was a DARPA project, but I found the local vendor, or, really, the local assembler. Parts come from all over- and I mean all over; thing is full of rare earth metals from every corner of the globe… and some that don’t seem to come from this globe at all. Once they realized it was Feds snooping, that vendor stopped talking. Odds are good they’re having an old fashioned shred-a-thon as we speak. But digital archives are a much tougher nut to crack. Our IT specialist verified they have a RAID set up- is that gibberish to you?”
“I think I’ve heard the word in relationship to MMOs?”
“Wrong raid. A RAID is a randomly…. um, no, a redundant array of independent disks. It’s basically storing copies of all of your eggs across several baskets, so even if your drunk uncle steps on one basket, you’ll still have copies of all your eggs.”
“Sounds like there’s a story behind that analogy.”
“I grew up on a farm and had a drunk uncle. He died of liver failure. The end.”
“No. But what the RAID means is to get rid of all of the incriminating data, they’re going to have to not just trash a drive and a backup, but all of their drives. Which means they need replacements, and to copy the rest of their data will take time, which buys us a little- but not much. I pulled a favor and sidelined their first shipment of drives; it’ll be a day or two before they realize something happened. But we’re on the clock, here.”
“Why me? I could think of any number of students whose abilities would be more useful for this. Mai probably top of the list.”
“She’s indisposed. And they have protocols to weed out some of your more common or problematic abilities. They shuffle you through a room full of people practically screaming awful thoughts at you, is why I didn’t ask Tucker. They fuck with your electronics to weed out the technopaths. I can’t imagine how they’d prove you’re Breed without a DNA test, which they cannot legally require- though they do their damnedest to skirt those rules. If they push it, there’s something in the glovebox for you.”
She gave the latch a push, and the glovebox door dropped open, revealing a chromed Sig Sauer. “A gun?”
“No. The gun is mine, for dealing with unhelpful passengers. But beside the gun, is a little vial.”
“Is that blood?” she asked, holding the vial up to the sun’s light.
“It’s even the right type.”
“How would you know?”
“Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.”
“I’m beginning to think even the good parts of the government need an eye kept on them.”
“You have that concern in common with the Founding Fathers, bunch of paranoid dead racists. And me, actually. But time wasn’t on our side. I get that it’s a violation, and blah, but nobody knew the pardon was coming down, so we didn’t have a robust plan B in place; we’re scrambling here.”
“We’ll table whether or not I’m foolish enough to do what you want… what is it that you actually want?”
“Simplest solution? Get us a way into their network. A technopath with ten minutes could get everything we need. The how… is slightly less straight-forward.”
“Because they’ll search you. And we’re fairly certain that the servers, at least, are in a hardened room- read: concrete, thick, no digital signal in or out. So you’re likely going to need to improvise. Maybe a lot. But… you’re the one person who can smuggle in back-up. Two heads, better than one, that whole spiel. And if need be, you can be in two places at once. Or more. But if we can prove that the Drump administration gave those yahoos experimental defense department tech- let alone prove their government was building it in the first place- that could do a lot of good. You in?”
“How are they going to want me to do my hair?” “We’ll figure something out.”