Using alien technology to empower people to break into Hardwick Industries and maybe commit other crimes as well had to be in violation of some agreement. Plus, they were talking about me. Didn’t the FBI quit while they were ahead if they had something and a civilian “asset” was in danger?
They hadn’t said, “That kid makes me nervous. Let’s kill him,” in so many words yet, but a risk to life and limb seemed implied in the way they were talking.
Of course, Lim didn’t view me as any civilian. He viewed me as the heir to my grandfather’s work and maybe even my grandfather’s genius. He wasn’t all wrong with that, but these people weren’t complete pushovers either.
Zola and Art were faster and stronger than the Ascendancy troopers I’d fought in space. They were more in Haley and her older brother Travis’s league. I doubt I’d have survived fighting them if the Ascendancy’s troops had the same physical abilities—though the troopers were likely better trained.
Art and Zola most likely hadn’t been trained much at all. They didn’t fight like it anyway. Unfortunately, talent might be enough if they both attacked me. My current version of the stealth suit was better than any previous one, but it was meant to be something I could wear without giving any hint that it was more than clothes. Nothing else, including weapons and armor, compared to that.
Plus, any fight where the suit had to be used would reveal that I was using a version of the Rocket suit. It wouldn’t be a big leap from there to guess that I was the Rocket.
The fact that Chris and I had both been using versions of the Rocket suit last night might obscure it, but not for long.
At any rate, those were the thoughts that flashed through my mind.
In the conference room, Zola had covered her face with her hands and wasn’t saying anything.
Art watched with his mouth half-open, sometimes glancing out toward the main area of the room. Then he said, “Look, I was just talking. I shouldn’t have brought it up. I should have known that anything they had on you couldn’t be good.”
Zola pulled a tissue out of her purse and dabbed under her eyes. “It’s not you. It’s that it’s not over. After Paula and I graduated and I got my first job, I thought I’d never have to worry about that again and now it’s back. I made a mistake and now I’m stuck with it forever.”
Shaking his head, Art said, “Not forever. They said they’d leave me alone after a year or two.”
Zola snorted. “They’ll never let us go. They don’t have any reason to let us go. We’re not the same people who said yes to them. They changed our DNA and who knows what they put in it. They made us into the people they want us to be, but what about the people we want to be? We might not feel it yet, but a year from now, we might like what we do for them. Maybe we’ll like the excitement and the violence the same way I’m still thinking about that steak even though I never used to. Maybe we’ll like it the same way I want to pounce on any animal or person that looks weak… Fuck, I used to be a vegetarian.”
Art looked at her and sat back in his chair. “You’ve got a point. I get twitchy when see people I think I can take in a fight and I keep on thinking of how I can get them away from help when I do it.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. Whatever they did to us turned us into predators.” Her voice never became loud, but it became harsher, more intense.
Art glanced over in the direction of my cubicle. “What do you think about the intern?”
She said, “He’s not acting like prey.”
I didn’t know what prey acted like, but I wasn’t going to ask them.
“So….” Art began, “we should write that email.”
She put her hands on her laptop’s keyboard.
Nothing interesting happened after that. They negotiated their way through a “good” email about the break-in, sent it out, and left. She waved at me on the way out and her eyes lingered on me a little too long.
I worked on code for the rest of the day, but also made a few quick edits to the conversation for Isaac Lim. I planned to call him as soon as I could.