Gabriel wrestled the guard to the ground as soon as he confirmed that Lorelei was here. He could have flashed his badge but that would have involved a lengthy explanation of why the hell the FBI had an interest in Lorelei.
“Good thing you were right,” Gabriel said. “Go!”
I didn’t need to hear it twice. Holding the envelope against my chest, I ran toward the peak of the hill. I prayed I would get there in time.
That she wanted to kill herself wasn’t really a surprise. She had stormed Merrilyn Tech with a song that had “erase myself” as part of the chorus. I didn’t think she’d go straight from killing her father to jumping off the cliff. I thought I would have time to tell her I could revert the surgical procedure, that I still had the pieces of her I had to take out to put in the tech. That I could make her whole again.
I had been wrong. Or maybe, I just didn’t want to believe it, choosing to listen to Gabriel and his WWND stats instead of my guts. According to his team of scientists, Lorelei’s survival instinct was too strong for her to commit suicide. Every time I brought up my concerns, he said he expected depressive moods but that she would never let it win because it meant that her father won in the end too.
He didn’t factor in that living meant bowing to the task force’s will or going on the run.
By the lord of micro-circuits, is this hill ever going to end?
The wind carried an acapella version of Don’t Fear the Reaper to me. I sighed in relief because she was still alive. A tear also trickled down my cheek; she would go through with this.
I arrived at the top and she had already turned to face me – super hearing be damned. At least she didn’t hurry the jump to avoid me.
“How dare you?” I waved the envelope she had hidden in the bottom drawer of the medical room’s dresser. I would never have found it in time if I hadn’t been foraging through my stuff to set up things up for her tech detox.
“I’m setting both of us free.”
I chuckled. “Yes, forging my signature of a fake prenupt so I’ll inherit the company that ruined my life is all about freedom.”
I threw the envelope to her face. She caught it between two fingers, unabashed by my anger. Her hair and girly dress floated on a gush of wind. In other circumstances, this place would be perfect.
“What better vengeance is there than to take control of your enemy?”
“Coming from someone who’s sick of people robbing her of choices, it’s quite funny.”
That point hit her hard – not that it really showed on her face but I recognized the almost invisible pursing of the lips.
“Please,” I said. I would drop to my knees if I had to. “Please come back with me. We preserved your muscles. I can turn you back to fully human.”
She shook her head. “It’s a nice thought, Vexx. But was never human.”
“Who said that?”
“I can be measured. Predicted. Like the weather. Or a program.” She carefully put the envelope on the ground, placing a rock on top of it so the wind wouldn’t blow it away.
“WWND was wrong.”
She looked up at me, blinking fast as if she was afraid the hope swimming behind her iris would overtake her bleak vision of the world. “But you’re here.”
“Gabriel didn’t think you’d try to kill yourself. He couldn’t figure out where and how you would do it. But I know you. Like I should my good human friend.”
Her shoulder dropped and soon, her body followed as she abruptly sat on the ground. The leaden weight was still there, despite today’s victory, despite her calm.
“I don’t know how to do this.”
I cautiously walked toward her, watching to make sure she was okay with it. She didn’t move and I took it as an invitation to sit by her side.
“Most people just cry and ask for help.”
She hesitated but, finally, she did what she should have three months ago. I wrapped my arms around her as she wept in silence. Then I smelled the tech by-product; her tears were tainted with it.
The convulsion started a second later.
“Shit!” I pulled her up and she barely held herself. Gabriel arrived in his car just as I secured Lorelei in hers. “We have to take her back to the base. Now!”
Gabriel veered and I followed him. When we hit the freeway, he started his sirens to clear the way. Ben waited for us with a gurney when we arrived and everyone else was out of sight to preserve Lorelei’s identity.
I was going to lose her now.
Since all my equipment was prepped, I sighed in relief as soon as she was plugged into the dialysis machine. An analysis revealed that the implants closer to the reboot chip had suffered a bit; nothing a proper reset couldn’t fix. She soon fell asleep while her blood was being filtered back to clarity.
“You’re not taking out the tech?” Gabriel asked once I exited the operating room. Lorelei slept the intoxication off.
“Not yet. She might never heal if I go back in before the nanobots erase all the scars from the first operation.”
“Think she’ll try again?”
Gabriel caught me when I wavered. I thought I had my lack of sleep in check.
“Go to bed. I’ll watch her.”
He had barely slept more than me in the past week but my body forced me to listen to his order. My mind didn’t like it though.
And it didn’t like it in the morning either.
I woke up to see Gabriel in his bed next to mine in the dormitory. Lorelei’s was empty with Frogster idling on the pillow. I punched Gabriel’s stomach. Or would have if he hadn’t caught my fist.
“You let her go?”
“I didn’t hold her back.” Somehow, it sounded like an accusation. “I would have if I didn’t believe she would uphold her end of the contract.”
Her contract? I was so pissed at Gabriel I couldn’t find the word. I didn’t think she would try to commit suicide anymore, but that didn’t mean she should be alone!
I grabbed Frogster. Maybe she left something, a hint so I could track her down.
“She’ll be back before the expiration date of her preserved muscles.” Gabriel sat in his bed. “She made a copy of some files. Test subject Alpha.”
I stared at Gabriel. So maybe he wasn’t completely useless. “Alpha is her.” I shouldn’t have spent my insomnia sorting these folders out; she would never have found that so fast. “It contains information about her mother.”
Frogster came to life in the palm of my hands and sprouted Lorelei’s good bye message.
THE END (for now)