I sat down, not wanting them to think I was watching them. Thanks to the bots I’d hidden around the offices and the lab, I didn’t have to watch them with my eyes. Allowing communication between my bots and my implant let me sit at my desk and watch the two of them move with my brain.
No doubt that opened up issues related to both privacy and humanity’s cyborg future, but I wasn’t worried about them. For me, being able to watch the two of them as they walked over to one of the small conference rooms meant that life was good.
I’d bugged that small conference room.
With glass walls on three of its four sides, the conference gave the impression of being modern or even futuristic, allowed the room to feel more spacious, and meant that the sort of senior executive that made passes at lower-ranked female co-workers would be less likely to use a conference room to do it.
It also made it a little harder to hide a spybot in the room, but fortunately, the room had the same kind of drop ceiling you found in almost every office in the US. Whatever they were made out of, whether it was vinyl or polystyrene, the tiles weren’t hard to burrow through.
That left me with a bird’s eye view of the room. Zola and Art sat across from each other. Art leaned back in his chair while Zola leaned toward him.
Glancing in what I realized must be the direction of my cubicle, she turned back toward Art. “Did anything about that conversation seem off to you?”
Art shrugged. “I don’t know. He just seemed like a geek. What other kind of guy recognizes this shirt on sight?”
Zola threw her hands up. “I don’t know. Maybe I’m being paranoid after the fight last night. If they hadn’t teleported us out, we’d have lost and then we’d be in jail right now or maybe dead.”
“Dead?” Art laughed. “This is the Heroes’ League. They don’t kill people. Now if Vengeance was in town I’d be worried and I can’t say I’m not. He’s been in town with those zombie guys he leads—the Hangmen. Those guys will string you up with their lassos. They’re like a zombie lynch mob. That makes me nervous. They’ve been around twice in the last few years—once when the new Heroes’ League started up and then again when that weird thing with the big head showed up. I don’t know what that was, but Vengeance came back. That’s not good.”
Zola looked down at the fake wood grain on the table and breathed without saying anything. Then she looked up. “Let’s not talk about that. I don’t think I can take worrying about any more things. What we’ve got is bad enough. We fought the Heroes’ League last night. Now they’re going to be looking for us. I hope that whatever they had us steal was worth it.”
Sitting up in his chair, Art said, “It was. Ryan seemed happy when I handed him the flash drive.”
Zola snorted and then said, “Ryan,” stretching out the syllables into, “Ryyyyannn…”
She shook her head. “Dr. Ryan McCall, director of research and hot stuff in his own mind. I can’t believe we let him do this to us.”
Art smiled and even from above, I could see his teeth. They’d grown.
Zola whispered. “Don’t do that here.”
Shaking his head, Art let his teeth turn back to normal. “No one will see it except maybe the kid. Like I’ve said before, enjoy it. I feel more alive now. I can smell smells I didn’t know existed. I can hear your heartbeat and the kid’s breathing, people talking in the Hardwick offices, and more. That doesn’t touch what I smell or that I can see in the dark or how strong and fast I am. What’s there to complain about?”
Zola didn’t say anything for a few seconds. Then she said, “Don’t you feel different? When I held the dice-”
“Die,” Art said.
She continued as if he hadn’t said anything. “—I thought for a second that I smelled blood and I’ve been coming back to it ever since. It makes me feel hungry. As soon as we decide what we’re going to put in the company email about the break-in, I’m going to get lunch–steak, warm, barely cooked and bloody. I didn’t used to like it rare. I can’t stand it any other way now.”
Art shrugged. “I never noticed. I always liked steak rare to medium rare, but you know, I do like it more rare now. After we get this email written, let’s get steak. That sounds good.”
She nodded. “It’s awful, but I can barely think about anything else right now.”
Shaking her head, she pulled a laptop out of her bag. “The company line on break-in is that yes, it’s bad, but we have enough security that we should be safe as long as everyone follows procedure.”
Nodding, Art said, “Sounds good. That’s what Ryan wanted. Once we knock it out, we send it to him for approval and we’re done.”
She started typing, writing a paragraph and then saying, “What do we do about the kid?”
Art met her eyes. “What is there to do? He doesn’t know anything.”
She took her hands off the keyboard. “He smelled nervous to me.”