“You’re alive!” Lilith says, tears in her beautiful blue eyes. “I was so worried.” She hugs herself, knowing not to try and hug me in the real world. I hate myself a little for that. Part of me wants to suppress my Pride, just for a moment. But the thought of doing so without Void also draining my emotions sends tremors of panic down my spine. It’s even worse than usual, still feeling traces of pain from where the nanites stitched my cellular structure back together.
“Of course I’m alive,” I say, blowing her an air kiss. “You think that crazy bitch could kill me?”
“Sounded to me like she did kill you,” Abe comments. Unlike Lilith, he does give me a hug. What’s left of the front of his body regenerates in moments. I know he doesn’t need Krieg’s nanites for healing and am so envious of him that I swear my own pain gets a little bit better. Or maybe those damn robots are just finally finishing their freaking job.
“Technicalities!” I say, dancing past him. I glide over to wear Krieg is and resist the urge to knock him upside the head. I know he has regular brain scans to restore himself from, but he’ll be cross if I cause brain damage while he’s in the middle of some breakthrough. I wait patiently for him to pay attention to me. More or less. I can’t help it that my version of tapping my foot causes the concrete to chip apart beneath me.
In what feels like forever, but is actually closer to thirty seconds, Krieg looks up from where he’s busily soldering tiny microchips together. He smiles in relief, a rare show of the concern he’d felt for me manifesting in his reaching out and ruffling my hair again with his own hand. It came away bloody but healing. I know that it’s going to sting him for a lot longer than Abe’s healing had and am satisfied that he’s making an effort to empathize with my current state of feeling. “You should be more careful my little mishka.”
“So on a scale of one to ten, how fucked are we?” Abe says, coming to join us, totally ruining the moment.
“Our timeline will need to be pushed back,” Krieg says. “But that was necessary anyways. I have made progress in my work, just not at the rate I would have hoped.”
“What are you up to?” Abe asks.
“A small dog,” Krieg says. “At the current pace of progress it will be months before we can even consider completing the plan. It would have been preferable if the work I infiltrated Hope’s Tower with had remained undetected. But we have other options for surveillance. And I am toying with some ideas on how to draw Void out without going straight to using you.”
“Hope may be more cautious about Void’s usage now that she knows you’re a player in this,” Abe says, like Krieg doesn’t already know that. “Lilith or I might be able to take him, if we get priority or range, but you’re the only one that’s guaranteed to beat him.”
“Fortunately Hope is arrogant and has a short memory," Krieg says. "If we direct enough moderate threats her way to deal with, she’ll eventually forget the real one by the time we attack. Especially given we’ll be doing so under a smokescreen. I have a particular person in mind to assist us, I just have to find him first.”
“Really? Do tell,” Lilith says, perking up in interest.
“That’s a surprise,” Krieg says. Part of me is curious too, but given he just brought me back to life and all it might be a little discourteous to beat the answer out of him. “At any rate, this little set back will only delay the inevitable. Once all of our pieces are in place, Hope doesn’t have a prayer of stopping us. The only one who is a threat to us is Jared, and as long as we don’t tip May off too much there’ll be no reason for him to step in until it’s already too late.”
I grin, looking forward to delivering some payback for my recent untimely death.
----------------------------------------------------- End of Week One -----------------------------------------------------