It was good Mikaela had only recently cut her hair to let it grow out naturally. It meant that her hair fit nicely under a wig, one that ironically enough resembled her treated hair, though it had the kind of impossible sheen she’d never managed to get herself, no matter what chemical combination she tried. A year ago, she’d have killed for her hair to look like this, but now, all she could see was her father’s look of approval. That pissed her off, not because she blamed him, but because she knew what they’d both given up for his idea of safety, and it was right to be angry about that.
She smoothed down a blouse that her aunt would have worn twenty years ago, and tried to remind herself that she wasn’t going to have to look like this for long. She just had a job to do.
“You look ten years older than me,” Laren said from the doorway.
“I assume that isn’t a compliment.”
“In this instance it is,” Laren said. “Few things in this world scare white people like a young black woman. Still too inexperienced to know the place they want to put you in, still too idealistic to accept that correction quietly. Personally, it makes me like you more. But you are going undercover in the land of respectability politics, disapproving of low-hanging pants and white people still mostly agreeing with Bill Cosby- except on the subject of mixology and pharmaceuticals. You ready?”
“I think I’m primped out.”
“Great. Because we don’t want to be late.” Mikaela grabbed her jacket and a fancy portfolio her aunt had got her as a high school graduation present and followed Laren out her front door. They walked out to thecurb, where Laren was parked.
“I got you the best in imaginable,” Laren said, handing her a stack of printed pages as she slid into the driver’s seat, “under the circumstances. One of the hardest things, dealing with government contractors, is security and clearances. But if someone’s already worked for another government vendor, that slices right through a lot of the red tape. And companies love nothing more than short-changing the bureaucracy. The page on top is your resume. Study it on the way.”
“Will this hold up?”
“If I gave that to the FBI? No. But to the level of scrutiny your average HR drone is going to put you through? Of course. And you’ve got the blood, right?”
“You’re weirdly concerned about the blood.”
“I had to score it off a coworker, and one of the caveats of me getting it was I had to draw it myself; makes me a little extra invested.”
“You really think this is going to work?”
“I hope so. I put in a hell of a lot of work for it to blow up. That, and if we can’t make something stick, not only is that hillbilly militia getting away free and clear, but so will the members of the Drump administration who gave them secret weapons developed on the public dime to attack your school. And that’s good for almost no one, save for the people who sell lynchin’ rope and bullets with slurs carved into them. Either we stop them dead, here, or things get worse.”