Moving Target

Part 15


“You okay to walk from here, sailor boy?” Ceci put the truck in park, and peered across the bridge leading to the port. “Or you want me to drop you down inside?”

“Naw.” Andy gathered up his hard hat and a small sack lying next to him on the seat. “This here’s fine. Don’t want them beagle brains wondering nothing.”  He paused to regard the line of old ships stretching out down the cut, plucking a seam on the nicely worn jeans covering his legs.

Ceci watched him, with a faint grin. “Well, go have fun then.” She nudged his shoulder. “My husband the corporate spy.”

Andy chuckled, turning his head and giving her a light kiss on the lips. “Just doing Dardar a favor.” He opened the door and hopped out, giving the side of the truck a slap before he moved off down the sidewalk towards the bridge.

“Hm.” Ceci leaned on the truck steering wheel, resting her chin on the top of it. “I’m not sure who did who a favor.” She made a mental note. Her beloved husband had settled into retirement, but Ceci knew him well enough to know having something to do was coming as a definite relief.

The fact that it was a truly interesting, actually important task only made it all the better.  Had Dar known that before she asked?

Well. Ceci mused. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, to quote a hoary old saying, and very probably her daughter had an inside insight into mentally hyperdriven restlessly active behavior that she just thankfully didn’t.

In any case, Andy was excited as a kid with a new sling shot, and she found herself surprisingly grateful to Dar for making him that way.  She looked around, spotting Bayside just to her right. Hm.

Maybe she could get Dar a present to say thank you.  With a brisk nod, she put the truck in gear and made a swift u-turn, crossing six lanes of traffic with placid non-concern.

Andrew walked slowly down the pier, nodding briefly at the few men wandering in to start work along with him. “Lo.” He greeted the foreman, who was standing near the gangway drinking cup of coffee.

“Hey there, ugly.” The foreman responded, with an easy grin that stripped the insult of most of it’s sting. “Listen, buddy. The folks inside gave me a good write up on you.”

Andrew stopped at the edge of the gangway and leaned on the chain rope. “Yeap?” He replied. “That so?”

The man nodded. “That Norskie said it was nice to have someone who spoke English but kept their mouth shut for a change.”

Andy chuckled. “Them fellers inside done chatter a bit, that’s true.” He allowed. “Didn’t seem any too organized, though.” He added offhandedly. “Lots of them boxes went all over the place.”

The foreman sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, I know. I heard that.” He frowned. “Problem is, the people who ordered all the stuff for the fixing up didn’t palletize it.”

“Yeap.” Andy nodded.

“So we’ve got dishes mixed with plumbing fixtures. What a mess.”  He showed Andrew his clipboard, which held reams of receiving invoices. “Look at this. You’re going to have an even bigger mess coming in today.”

Since he so nicely offered, Andrew took the board and examined the papers. “Wall.” He leaned on the chains again and pointed at one of the lines with a scarred finger. “See that there?”

“Yeah?” The man looked at the line warily. “What about it?”

“Way back when in the Navy, that there used to be called a source tick.” Andy told him. “I ain’t got a half clue what them boys back in the office do with it, but all them with the same number done belonged together.”

The foreman looked around quickly. “Yeah?” He studied the number, then flipped a few pages, and looked at another invoice. “Son of a bitch! Look! Cups, saucers, and silverware.. all the same one!”  His voice rose excitedly. “If we can get a couple of big magic markers we might make sense of this damn crap… hang on.. I’ll be right back… Ugly, you’re a genius!”

Andrew watched him hurry off. “Lord.” He moved on in search of a roach coach, spotting one outside the walkway. “What the hell these people being paid for I do wonder. Mah kid come in here and this whole basket’d been tossed head over keester by now.”

There was a small crowd around the wagon and he joined it, standing in line to wait his turn, then pointing mutely at the coffee and holding up an apple he’d taken from the back of the coach when he got to the front. The vendor handed him a steaming cup and took his proffered money, then moved on to the next guy in line as Andrew set the cup down and applied as much of everything he could to get it to stop tasting like watery coffee.

It was already warm, and he was sweating under his t-shirt, but as he walked over to stand near the gangway again and sipped his coffee, he felt good to be there anyway.  He leaned against the huge cleat the ship was moored to and crossed his ankles, his military issue boots showing dark against the white concrete.

Two figures approached down the pier, attracting his attention. He remained in place, however, idly munching on his apple as the two women approached. They were talking as they walked, looking around but not really paying much attention to the men standing around on the pier.

As they came even with him, though, Andrew dropped his eyes to his cup, cocking his ears to listen instead.

“I’m telling you, Shari. It’s going to take three weeks to get the damn wireless gear in here, and even then the best I can hope for is maybe  2 megabit pipe to that rented office over there.”

“We are not giving those bitches one flat dime, Michelle.” The taller, older of the two women retorted. “I don’t care if we have to move the office here. Rent space in that damn Catholic trailer. I don’t give s shit. I’ve got other people working on screwing ILS, so I’m not going to sit here being screwed by them in the meantime.”

“Well, hell.” The shorter woman replied. “I say let’s bury the hatchet long enough to get a connection, for Pete’s sake. I need the access to the system, Shari! I can’t run the hardware part of this with a fucking tin can and a roll of string!”

“Fine.” The taller woman stormed onto the gangway, brushing right by Andrew as she did so. “Do whatever the fuck you want.  Go screw the little blond rat you’re lusting for. Maybe that’ll get you what you want.”

The smaller woman stopped at the edge of the gangway. She glared at the other woman’s retreating back, then glanced at Andrew.

“Mornin.” Andrew tipped his coffee cup to her.

With a disgusted look, the woman turned and stalked off, her heels clattering loudly on the concrete. Andrew liberated an apple seed from the core he’d been nibbling and spit it after her, watching it bounce along the pier, skittering merrily in her wake.


“C’mere.. c’mere..” Dar was focused intently on the screen, her body arced forward and hunched over the laptop. She had three windows open, and she was running traces in all of them, using a fourth to scramble rapidly after the would be hacker as they probed the gateways into her network.

It was a tough balance, trying to follow the hacker around while at the same time, not revealing her presence, while at the same time running traces on him to find out where he was from. 

Instinctively, she’d thrown up a zone around the router he was attacking, locking off the security to her login alone, and restricting all inbound traffic to reroute through her analyzer.  So – there was no danger in letting him poke around, because there was literally no place for him to go.

And maybe she could learn something about what he was looking for if she let him keep looking. But the probes did not seem to have any particular intent – the hacker was looking for something.. anything, as though he was just opportunistically searching for any crevice he could.

Which, if she thought about it, made a peculiar kind of sense given the jerkwad challenge she’d tossed out there.

Without looking, Dar picked up the can of Yoohoo and took a swallow, then set it down quickly as her nemesis apparently decided to give up, and backed out of the gateway.  “Ah ah ah…” Dar glanced at the trace, then chuckled wickedly. “Ah, gotcha.”

She followed him back out, away from their hardened entry point, back through the backbone he’d come in on, back to his own front door.

He vanished, his IP disappearing behind a firewall, but before he did, Dar got one last bit of information from him she hadn’t expected, an unusual port that she took a chance on, and went in after him with.

She never expected it to work, but the next thing she knew, she was in the raider’s gateway router, a bland, innocent prompt facing her with a pound sign that rang alarm bells so loudly she had to look up to make sure she wasn’t actually hearing them real time.

For a moment, she just sat there, fingertips resting on her keyboard, letting her heartbeat settle down.

Okay.  Dar took a deep breath. From where she was, she could do damn near anything, far more in fact than the hacker could have done to her network if he’d gotten as far as she had.

It seemed a perfect opportunity – she could find out where this guy was from, what his motives were.. maybe turn the tables on him? He’d been pretty confident he’d get to her – now she could chase him down to his very desk and…

Paybacks? Dar drummed her fingers, feeling an instinct rising that she knew from long experience that she ignored at her own peril. 

Carefully, she screencapped where she was, then very deliberately, she clicked the x box on her command window and took herself out of the alien gateway.

If she could set up an trap, so could he, and the stakes were a lot higher for her if she was caught snooping inside someone else’s network.  If Mark had done it, well.. he was her security chief. But to have the CIO of ILS get caught red handed breaking in?

No. Much as her fingertips itched to do it, that open router with a pre-set enable password.. that was just too easy.  While there was always a chance someone really was that stupid, Dar found herself growing just that much over the conservative line.

“Guess I’m really not that hotshot punk anymore.” Dar announced to the blinking routers, which did not change their placid LED flashing for her. “Ah well.” She sighed.

Then she sat back and pulled her bag over, taking a swig of her drink and pulling an apple out. She set it on her lap and pulled out her pocket knife, slicing the apple in half.  With one eye on the monitors, she pulled out a tube of peanut butter and squeezed a blob onto the apple, taking a bite of it as she freed her other hand to type in a command.

Now. She could find out more about the hacker. She had a spoofed IP he’d been using, but the router she’d dropped into had a real one, and finding out who owned that was a relatively…

Dar blinked at the screen. A square was blinking in the center of her screen, with a simple, red heart in the middle of it, beating slightly.

Then a message appeared. Okay, so it’s not Gopher Dar, but it gets my thoughts across, right?

Dar clicked on it, and answered back. Definitely. Where are you?

In my meeting. We’re getting a price list together.

Dar watched her trace finish, then exhaled, her eyes narrowing.  Well, Telegenics just tried to send a hacker in here.

Big surprise. Kerry’s snort could almost be heard.

No, it wasn’t, but it was definitely a two edged attack, Dar realized. If they were coming after her and, as she suspected, trying to lure her into a trap – what would happen if they realized she’d already laid one for them?

Hey, Dar?

Dar took another bite of her apple, and typed a one handed reply. Yeah?

Mark says his alert monitor is going bonkers and no one can get into the master router. You got any ideas what’s up?

Oops.  Tell him to relax. I’m doing something.  Dar put the apple down and rattled the keys, resetting the router security and giving access back to the automated systems. Better?

A few seconds of silence, then… He’s not hyperventilating anymore. Must be.  Can you take a break and come up just to hear the recap?

Dar drained her YooHoo, looking thoughtfully at the question. Yeah, Be right up.  

She needed to think about what she’d just seen, anyway.


“What did you think?” Kerry asked, as she and Dar walked down the hallway towards her office.

Dar glanced at her. “About your presentation skills, the plan, or how cute you look in that outfit?” She asked, with a rakish grin. 

“What..” Kerry sighed in mock exasperation. “Am I going to do with you?”  She shook her head, giving a wave to Mayte. “Get in here.” She added, pulling the door open and standing back to let Dar pass.

“Or?” Dar sauntered by, and waited for Kerry to close the door. “You going to spank me? Should have done it out in the hallway. That’d keep the rumor mill going for weeks.”  She walked over to the small couch in the office and sat down, letting her elbows rest on her knees.

“You’re such a little devil sometimes.” Kerry walked over and sat down next to her, preferring the couch’s soft confines to her lonely desk chair. “And no, I meant the plan. I already know what you think about those other two things.”  She nudged Dar’s shoulder.

Dar wiped a bit of router room dust off her fingertips. “I like it.”

Kerry waited. Nothing else followed. “And?”

“And?” Dar reached down and retied the shoelace on her boot. “I think you’ve come up with a solid proposal – the one question is gonna be the cost.”

“Well, sure.”  Kerry agreed. “But you think the way it’s laid out, that’ll work?”

Dar leaned back and crossed her arms, giving her partner a sideways look. “Can I ask something?”

Kerry also sat back. “Sure.”

“You’ve done, easy, four dozen accounts without my help.” Dar said. “So why do you think you need it on this one?”

Hm.  Kerry crossed her own arms and stared thoughtfully at the carpet, giving the question it’s due deliberation. Finally she just shrugged. “I don’t know.”  The admission surprised her, possibly more than it did Dar. “Maybe because I know how important this is.”

“They’re all important.” Dar unfolded her arms and laid her right one over Kerry’s shoulders. “Just run with it, Ker. Don’t’ worry about what I think. Just do what you think’s right.”

Kerry’s index finger traced a light pattern on the denim covering Dar’s thigh. “Easy to say, harder to accomplish.” She smiled briefly. “So, anyway.. what were you doing in the closet?”

“I’ve never been in the closet.” Dar deadpanned, accepting the change of subject. “But I’m glad you asked. C”mere.” She got up and lead Kerry over to her desk, sliding into the chair and giving Kerry’s trackball a roll. “Maybe I’m nuts. But I think I got out of a trap by the skin of my teeth.”

“You?” Kerry leaned on the desk next to her. “Trap set by who?”

Dar looked at her, and smiled grimly. “Someone who’d love to embarrass the hell out of us and plaster it all over the trade press. Look.”  She called up the screen on her own laptop, which she’d locked in the closet. It still had the screen captures she’d done on it, and her notes.

Kerry bent close, leaning on her elbows as she read, her lips moving slightly. She was aware of Dar’s close presence, her breath warming the skin on the outside of Kerry’s arm. “Wait, you got right in there?” She said. “Into that router? Holy pooters!”

“Uh huh.” Dar rumbled softly.

“Wow. Bet you wanted to go right in there and smack em.”  Kerry mused. “I might have. How did you guess it was a trap? What if it wasn’t? What if they’re really that stupid?”


A sigh. “Yeah, I know. I just can’t help it.” Kerry flicked her fingernail against the monitor. “I can’t even believe I’m suggesting that. I think my business ethics got chucked in the dumpster when it comes to those two erfing bitches.” She gazed down at her desktop. “Maybe that’s why I’m all off balance on this thing, Dar.”

“Mm.” Dar glanced up as Kerry’s intercom went off.

“Kerry?” Mayte’s voice broke in. “I have that Michelle Graver person on line one.” Though polite, Mayte’s voice had a definite tinge of disapproval to it, much like the one her mother’s had when necessary.

“Am I in?” Kerry swiveled around and laid down flat on her back, her legs dangling off the edge of her desk. “I have to ponder that for a minute. Tell Michelle to hold on, hm?” She turned her head and gazed at Dar.

“Sure.” Mayte clicked off.

“Is it unprofessional of me to just want to keep her waiting for the hell of it?”

“No.” Dar rested her elbows on the desk and leaned forward, tilting her head and gently exploring Kerry’s lips with her own. “On the other hand..” She kissed her again, this time for a longer period. “Making her wait for this is highly unprofessional.”

“Oh.” Kerry folded her hands over her stomach and let her eyes flutter closed briefly, as Dar continued her extremely unprofessional behavior. “If someone walks in right now, I think we’d both deserve to be fired.” She finally said, with a small sigh.   

“Probably.” Dar agreed. “But I’d have to fly Alastair in to fire us, and by the time he got here, something would break and he’d just be asking us to come back.”

Kerry’s eyes twinkled, but she made a face as she reached across to hit the intercom. “Okay, put her through, Mayte.”

“Okay.”  Mayte responded. “But are you sure? I think the music is very enjoyable for her.”

Dar chuckled softly. “Mayte, you’re sounding more and more like your mother every day.”  She added, watching Kerry’s eyes crinkle at the corners as she grinned.

“Thank you.” Mayte said. “Mama will like that you said that, I am sure.”

“Go ahead and connect her, Mayte.” Kerry said. “I wouldn’t condemn even Michelle to much more Muzak regurgitated Nine Inch Nails.”

Mayte clicked off, then after a second, a soft buzz replaced her. Kerry reached over an hit the answer button. “Operations, Stuart.” She addressed the ceiling.

“Hello, Kerry.” Michelle’s voice was a mixture of cordiality and veiled frustration. “Sorry to disturb you.”

Dar reached over and traced the edge of Kerry’s ear, watching it turn pink after a few seconds.

“Ah, no problem. What can I do for you?” Kerry gamely replied. “Or are you just calling to insult me a little more? It’s been a slow morning.” She ignored the tiny mewing sounds from very close to her ear.

An audible sigh came through the phone. “Actually, I’m calling you to eat crow, which I know you’ll enjoy, and ask how much you want for your blackmail circuit.”

Kerry wriggled a little on her back, doing a small victory dance. “To be honest, Michelle..”

“Oh yes, I know you’ll be that.”

The mewling had altered, growing deeper and into a low growl. Kerry glanced at her partner, not surprised to see the pale blue eyes narrowed into slits. Experimentally, she reached over and touched Dar’s lip, lifting it to inspect a well formed canine tooth just underneath.

Dar cocked an eyebrow at her, and stopped growling.

“Pass through cost plus five percent.” Kerry said. “Take it or leave it.”  She drew a line up the center of Dar’s nose, watching her eyes cross as she tried to follow it, and smiled as she imagined she could hear Michelle’s teeth grinding together on the other end of the phone.

“Fine.” Michelle answered, clipping the word short.  “What do you need to get it done?”

“A check and a circuit terminus.” Kerry replied. “Just have someone see Mark Polenti at our office in Pier 10 tomorrow, he’ll take care of it.”

“Fine.” Michelle said again. “Thanks. Bye.”

The line went dead. Kerry exhaled. “Well, boss – we made almost four percent profit on that insurance policy.. not bad, huh?”

“Brilliant.” Dar blew in her ear. “So brilliant, I’m going to leave this other little problem in your hands… because when I backed out of that router because I didn’t want the CIO of ILS to be caught hacking – I remembered I put an industrial spy in Telegenic’s camp. What happens if that comes out?”

Kerry eased herself upright, her back not particularly appreciating the hard surface of her desk. It gave her time to think about Dar’s question, and consider the impact of it.  “Well.” She hopped off the desk and walked around in front of it. “How would it come out? It’s not like he’s not there, just doing a job, right?”


“Shari never met him, I guess, or she’d be a long squashed mango on I-95 by now.”  Kerry went on. “So unless he..”

“Hears them talking about us.” Dar got up and ran a hand through her hair. “and behaves like he usually does, we’re safe. Right?”

“Oh boy.”

Dar headed for the back door to the hall that connected their offices. “Worry about it when it happens.” She waved a hand at Kerry. “Meanwhile, I’m going to see if I can’t find a way to turn the tables on our little bucket of chum.”

Kerry sat down in her chair, the leather holding a hint of Dar’s scent which surrounded her as she leaned back.   What would really happen, she wondered, if Andy was found out?  Would it be viewed as a scandalous criminal act, or just a smart piece of business? It wasn’t as if , as she’d said to Dar, that Andrew had gotten the job on false pretenses.

He was qualified and more to do what they were paying him for. If he did the work, then what could anyone say, really? 

Kerry felt the irony, though. She knew this was something her father would have done in a bare instant, and in fact, he’d readily approve of her tactics.

She grimaced.

That sure wasn’t a nice feeling. Yet – Andrew hadn’t seemed to object to the task either. He’d agreed readily and seemed to think it was a good idea.

So where was the ‘right’ in all this?  Kerry opened her drawer and removed a piece of dried apricot from the bag there, putting it into her mouth and chewing it slowly. Was there any right?



Kerry edged through the construction zone in the middle of the ship, and looked around. She spotted ILS’s senior electrical contractor near the other end of the space, and hastened towards where he was standing, surrounded by ship staff.  “Jack.”

The man turned and saw her. “Ah. Ms. Stuart. Glad you’re here.”  He waited for her to join him. “We seem to have a problem here.”

Only here? Kerry allowed her public, diplomatic cloak to settle over her shoulders. “What seems to be the issue, guys?”

“Are you in charge of all this?” One of the men standing around asked her. “I am hearing this person say he needs to turn off power to several decks of the ship.”

Kerry eyed him thoughtfully. “Well, sure.” She said. “He has to do that to put in more power, and the cabling we need for the new computer systems. He can’t do that with the power on.”

“What are we supposed to do?” The man asked. “We live here. Would you like to be in this damn heat with no power?”

“I was, just a little while ago, matter of fact.” Kerry said. “No, it’s not pleasant. But it’s the only way we can get the job done, so what do you think we’re supposed to do?  I’m sure Jack will work with you and shut down a section at a time, not all the decks and once.” She turned. “Right?”

Jack hesitated, then nodded. “Right.”

“But we’ve got jobs to do too.” The man continued arguing. “I have people to administer, services to fufill.. I can’t be without power.”

“We can move you to someplace that has it.” Jack said.

“Certainly not! I have far too many important things in my office!” The man stated flatly.

Kerry folded her arms over her chest. “Okay.” She looked him right in the eye. “I understand.”

“Good.” The man smiled.

“Just give me your name, so I can go back to Mr. Quest, and tell him why we can’t proceed with his project.” Kerry smiled back at him. “I’m sure he’ll understand, too.”

The man blinked in shock, then stiffened. “I didn’t say you couldn’t proceed!”

“Sure you did. You said you can’t be without power. We have to turn the power off to go forward. So if you can’t be without power, and you won’t move to where power is, then we can’t go forward.”  

The rest of the staff seemed content to watch, their eyes shifting between the man, and Kerry as though watching an exciting ping pong match. They all seemed to be deferring to the argumentative man, whose bearing indicated he was used to obedience and authority.

That was all right. So was Kerry, but in a different way. “So, can I have your name?” She asked gently. “Because Jack and I both have other things we could be doing if we’re not going to be able to start up here.”

“Right you are, ma’am.” Jack stuck his thumbs into his jeans pockets, and rocked on the heels of his work boots.  “Plenty of projects lined up.”

“Unless maybe we could work something out with you – maybe we could have our guys move your stuff when we needed to.” Kerry read the man’s body language and decided giving him an out was a good idea. “We’d be glad to do that.”

Jack scowled.

The man snorted, and lifted a hand. “Fine.” He relented. “If you have to, you have to.  But you must come to me before you turn off anything, so I can make sure nothing gets disrupted.”

“Sure.” Kerry said. “Jack, can you assign someone from  your office to liase with…” She looked at the man questioningly.

“Pieter Oshousen.” The man supplied. “Staff Captain.”   He gave them all a nod, then turned and walked off, his back stiff.

“Right.” Kerry watched as the rest of the staff dispersed also, their attitudes half amused and half disgruntled.  “Oh, this is going to be so much fun.” She added, once they were gone. “It’s like being in a inhabited construction zone.”

“Got that right.” Jack sighed, scratching his head. “Where in the hell do we start? Every time I try to put a plan together, I keep running into these roadblocks.”

Kerry shook her head. “Yeah, I know. C’mon, I think I found us something we can use for a central core, since my first choice just isn’t going to fly.” She lead the way to the stairwell, and started down. “They don’t like this idea either, but it takes space away from passengers not crew, so at least they won’t stand in our way, and the overall ship management approved it.”

Jack snorted. “Figures.” He followed Kerry down the steps, and then though a series of doorways until she stopped in front of one. She pushed it open, and stood back, pointing inside. With a doubtful look, he stepped past her and entered the space. “Ah.”

Kerry entered after them. “Yeah.”

Jack turned around. “This is a cabin.”

“It is. But it’s an inside one, and they’ve actually given me two of them.” Kerry agreed. “This one, and the one next to it, which is through this connecting door.” She shoved the inner door open and looked through.

Both cabins had seen far, far better days. The carpet was an indiscriminate color, perhaps it had once been aqua, and the walls had peeling laminate of an equally grayish hue. There were no beds, but on one wall, a pull down bunk was clamped.

It smelled horrible.

“We’ll have to strip both rooms, but I think it’s workable, and this wall..” Kerry walked over and slapped the inner partition, near the bunk. “Backs onto the elevator shaft and all the conduit trackways.”

Jack looked measurably happier. “Eh? Do they? Now that’s workable.” He walked over to inspect the wall, then reached up to push at the ceiling. It gave under his touch, the panel lifting up and showering them both with debris best left undescribed. “Uh.. sorry.”

Kerry plucked her shirt out, scattering the grunk, and ran her fingers through her hair to send more flying. “No problem.” She responded. “Anything up there?”

Her companion flipped a flashlight up and peered into the space. “Lucked out.” He grunted. “Not a firewall. This is an easy punch.” He turned his head. “Good pick, ma’am. We can work with this.”

“Thanks. Now.” Kerry put her hands on her hips. “You can start laying cable in, while I get a general contractor in here to make this space livable. I can’t even put a rack in here until we put down a substrate and extra AC.”

“Yup.” The electrical contractor nodded. “I’ll get my fiber guy in here, and the cat five people. You pick where you want the access closets, or is that a fight too?”

Kerry sighed. “What do you think?”

“Need to know that, fore I can have the fiber feller quote the job.” Jack sounded apologetic. “I was going around the decks before you got here.. I thought I saw some electrical closets up there you could mount a switch or two in, and they can’t use em for storage.”

“Really? Show me.” Kerry followed him out the open door and down the hallway.  Could she get that lucky? Electrical closets already had ventilation, and naturally they had power – could she get away with not having to fight the already hostile staff for yet more precious space?

They started up the forward stairs, wincing a little as their shoes stuck to the treads. Workmen dressed in ship jumpsuits brushed by them going the other direction without giving them a second glance, but just seeing them made Kerry suddenly wonder about something.

Andrew was in Shari and Michelle’s ship. What if they’d put someone in hers?  How would she tell? She looked around at the workmen, all of whom looked more or less alike, and most seeming to look right through her in return.  Well, she could request all their employment details and have checks run, but…

“Here.” Jack lead her off one of the stair landings into a side corridor, with cabins on either side. He found one unmarked door and yanked it open, to reveal a small, ill lit closet with a large breaker box and other electrical piping inside.

It was small and dirty, but Kerry pulled out a tape measure and found a relatively clear spot on one wall of the closet. “We can squeeze a half rack in here.” She said. “How many of these are there?”

“Two on each deck.”

Kerry snapped the tape measure shut. “Sold.” She tucked the tool away. “Put an extra one percent on your estimate, Jack.  You solved a huge problem for me. To retrofit space for these things would have cost me a bundle.”

A big smile crossed the contractor’s face. “Y’know, that’s what I love about dealing with you.  I never feel like it’s always one of us taking, one giving, or turn around.” He held a hand out. “Makes my life easier too – I’ve already got a lot of conduit up there I can use.”

Kerry solemnly shook his hand. “Okay. Give me an eight strand fiber core to each closet, terminating in our snazzy cabin digs, and cat five runs to all the places on the blueprints. When can I expect a quote?”

Jack chuckled, as they went back down the hallway.  “Tomorrow, maybe. Hey, one thing though – this electrical mostly isn’t up to code. Not your gig, but the stuff I have to put in will be. What about the rest?”

Good question. She wondered if that had been part of Quest’s plan, since the construction would have to pass local inspection at some point. “I don’t know.. how about I put you together with their admin people. Maybe they’ll let you quote it, if they don’t have a contractor already.”

“I’d appreciate that.” He grinned at her.

Yeah, bet you would. Kerry muffled a smile. She liked Jack but she knew he knew where his best interests lay. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt her to have him get more business, and maybe he’d agree to adjust his costs if he could get a bigger volume.

Business was like that. You did a favor, sometimes you got a favor. Sometimes you didn’t, but she’d learned that despite what Dar often said and did, you really could get more with honey than vinegar.  “Okay, I’m off to go call Roberto. See you later, Jack.” She waved at the contractor as they returned to the main deck.

“Oh, Ms. Stuart.”

Kerry stopped, and turned as she saw the chief purser headed her way. In contrast to the hostility the day before, the woman now seemed anxious to be polite to her. Hm. Kerry waited for her to catch up and wondered if her fencing with the staff captain had gotten around. “Hi.”

“Hi.” The woman smiled at her. “Listen. I just wanted to apologize about yesterday. I know you’re just here to get a job done, and I was totally out of line going off like that.”

Uh huh. “No problem.” Kerry replied. “I really do understand how strange it must be for you to have us come in here and just start doing things – we really don’t know much about how you run everything.” She shifted her body language, taking a more casual stance. “And now that I’ve been around the ship, I can see how tight everything is.”

The woman relaxed into a bigger smile. “Wow, I’m glad you understand. I hear you found another spot for your stuff? Is it going to be okay?” She edged around a little. “Listen, we’ve got some coffee over in the mess, can I get you a cup?”

Well, when it came to gift horses, the heads were definitely better than the tails. “Sure.” Kerry agreed, allowing herself to be lead on by her new friend. “Maybe you can fill me in on how things work here, you know? So we can all get along better.”

“Ah. Glad to.” Drucilla seemed far more confident. “You just stick with me.”

Uh huh. Kerry produced a grin. Let’s see where this goes, because sometimes you just never know.


The condo was very quiet as Dar slipped inside, too quiet, until Chino came sliding out of the bedroom, barking a greeting at her. “Hey girl.”  She set her briefcase down and knelt to greet the dog, ending up sitting on the floor with Chino climbing all over her. “Hey, hey hey..”


“Hang on.” Dar managed to get to her feet and headed for the back door, followed by an ecstatically prancing Labrador. Chino stopped halfway, though, and looked back over her shoulder as though missing something.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just me.” Dar told her, opening the back door to the small garden. “Kerry’s not here.”  She watched the dog trot outside, whisking through the evening sun still splashing through the trees.  Kerry was at the ship, working on her project.

Dar had almost gone there too, but she stopped herself with a stern reminder that she’d turned the damned thing over to Kerry, and she needed to butt out already.  So instead, she’d just gone home.

And here she was. Dar leaned against the door jam and surveyed the quiet kitchen. Usually she and Kerry came home together, but occasionally Kerry left before she did, and whenever she did, Dar always came home to something nice like dinner, or a waiting hot tub or..

But she had no idea when Kerry was coming back. A note sent earlier had gone unanswered, and so now Dar was at a bit of a loss.  She removed her PDA and scribbled a second note, sending it on it’s way, before she turned and headed off towards the bedroom.

Inside, she paused a moment, tugging her shirt from her waistband and unbuttoning it before sitting down briefly to remove her boots. Then she removed the shirt and then her jeans, folding them both neatly and putting them on the dresser. 

Chino bounded back in and came over to her, wriggling against her knees happily. Dar played with her for a few minutes, then she got up and retrieved a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, slipping into them before she went back out into the living room.

She could watch television. Dar studied the blank screen, then moved past it.  She could go for a swim, or a walk with Chino, or go to the gym.

Or sit in the hot tub.

She went to the kitchen and closed the back door. She could do some work, or play with her models. With a sigh, Dar went to the refrigerator and got some milk, leaning against the counter to sip it as she considered all of her various options.

None of them really appealed to her, so she went into the living room and sat down at the dining room table, sorting through the basket of mail placed there by the island staff.

No bills, because they handled all theirs electronically.  A few bits of junk mail, mostly related to software upgrades or offers of new computer hardware. Dar tossed all these to one side and pulled over a diving magazine which spurred a bit more interest.

She checked her PDA after a few minutes, finding it still silent, and then gave up on the mail. “Hell with it.” Dar tossed the magazine from her and got up. “Okay, Chino.. wanna come to the gym with me? You can help me lift weights, okay?”


“Okay.” Dar went and put on her sneakers, then headed for the back door, pausing only to scribble a note on the small white board just to one side of the refrigerator.  She’d spend an hour or so at the gym, then see if Kerry was home and stop at the club for dinner for them on her way back.

Satisfied with her plan, Dar headed off down the path to the gym, with Chino trotting along after her. With the sun having set, the heat was dissipating and the breeze off the ocean was almost comfortable.  She watched as Chino retrieved a tennis ball from somewhere and raced back to her with it. “Gimme that.”

She threw the slimy ball across the beach, and kept walking as Chino chased it down.  Several tosses later, they were at the entrance to the gym, and Dar cheerfully ignored the glares from two other residents as she held the door open for Chino to trot past.

They’d had a problem with that since they’d started bringing the Labrador to the gym with them. At first, Dar had been delivered with six or seven letters of objection from the condo association over her practice, then she’d even been served with an official summons from the Island’s legal office over it.

Unfortunately for all of them, she had Aunt May’s original copy of the bylaws, and no where in any of them did it say you could not bring dogs into the gym. It hadn’t made her popular with a few people, but Chino was well behaved, and she’d won over most of the residents after a while. “C’mon, Chi.”

Unlike Dar herself, apparently. She gave the other two residents a charming smile, then went inside the inner door that lead to the dressing rooms. Inside, she went to her assigned locker and opened it, removing a towel and a pair of weighted gloves, which she slipped over her hands and fastened.

They weren’t that heavy, only two pounds each, but she found they gave just that little extra bit of punch to her workouts and she’d noticed a bit more definition appearing in the muscles of her upper arms from using them.

Or, well, she hadn’t exactly noticed that. Dar went over to the weight bench and settled herself on it. Kerry had noticed, and commented on it in the shower the other day. Then, she’d just laughed, but now she had to sit here and acknowledge just how much she liked having Kerry notice things like that.

Total ego. Dar did a quick couple of sets with a relatively light barbell just to warm up. Total ego, and on the fringes a haunting insecurity she tried very hard to pretend didn’t exist.  She liked Kerry paying attention to her, and probably that was why she felt so out of sorts, having two messages ignored so far today.

Stupid, really. Dar got up and moved to a leg press station, sliding a pin into place and waiting for her body to settle into position before she started the exercise.  Chino stood up and licked her arm, sliding up and down as she tried to keep her balance. “Chi, down.”  Dar muffled a chuckle. “Lie down.”

Reluctantly, the dog obeyed, seating herself on the rubberized floor at Dar’s side.

Kerry was probably busy doing what it was ILS paid  her for, taking care of details, and putting her plan into effect with her typical detail oriented style.  While it never matched her own, Dar appreciated her partner’s very disciplined operating mode.

It matched her usual schedule in the gym. While Dar tended to wander from machine to machine, using whichever one struck her fancy at the moment, Kerry always followed one or two or three routines, studiously using all the machines in it until she either finished or exhausted herself.

Dar kept the image of her partner in her mind as she got up off the leg press and switched to an abdominal machine, laying flat on her back and taking hold of the handles before she started her sit ups.  She enjoyed the exercise, though this one was a little harder for her than it was for Kerry due to her longer torso.

For a while after they’d gotten together, Dar had strongly suspected that Kerry was doing gym work more  to fit in with her lifestyle than because she really enjoyed it and it had made her feel a touch guilty even though she’d called Kerry on it more than once.

After all, Kerry had been forced into doing things she didn’t really want to do for so long, was it fair that she escape from her family life only to feel obligated to change again to meet what she felt were Dar’s expectations?

Except they really weren’t her expectations. Dar didn’t honestly care if Kerry worked out or not and she’d tried really hard to convince her of that until Kerry finally just told her she really liked it.  Or, actually, she didn’t fanatically enjoy it, but she very much liked the results so she was willing to put the work in to get them.

Dar paused to add a little more weight to the machine’s resistance and continued her sets.  That had finally made sense to Dar, at least, since taking control over her looks had been a big part of Kerry shrugging off her past.

Of course, now it meant that for the first time in a long time, *she* was concerned about what her body looked like, but it seemed a small enough price to pay for having found the most amazing love of her life.

Probably, though, Dar almost chuckled at herself, Kerry would tell her she didn’t care what Dar looked like just as insistently as Dar had told her. Both of them probably wondered if they both really meant it, and neither wanted to find out for sure.

So her life was now complicated. Dar exhaled, and let her eyes close, her thoughts wandering elsewhere as her body went through the motions. But it was a nice kind of complication and she had no desire to get rid of it so hell with it all anyway.

Instead, she imagined herself underwater, in the peaceful blue of a dive doing lazy somersaults as Kerry floated nearby taking pictures of sea urchins. She loved watching Kerry take pictures because she’d get herself into the nuttiest positions doing it, usually standing on her head to get closer and tight focus on the tiny creatures.

Her hair would float around her head in a halo and she’d cross her ankles, her fins fluttering lightly to keep herself in position.  Dar would sometimes get herself horizontal in the water and rest her chin on her clasped wrists, just hanging there and watching the show.

She could almost hear the bubbles of her own breathing.

So a warm, solid weight settling over her lower body nearly scared the shorts off her until she managed to get her eyes open and her hands untangled from the machine and found Kerry sitting on top of her dressed out for the gym and looking amused. “Bah!” She yelped in surprise, dropping flat on her back again.

“Hi there.” Green eyes twinkled. “You didn’t wait for me, you punk!”

Dar blinked, trying to get her tongue to work properly after having bitten it. “Abu.” She cleared her throat. “Wait for you when? I had no idea you were coming home this fast.” She protested. “I thought you’d be later at the port.” Jerked so quickly out of her peaceful day dream, her body now didn’t know whether to jump or completely relax and she felt like hiccupping.

“I answered your last note.” Kerry replied. “I didn’t realize when I was in the bowels of the ship my signal was cut off. I got topside and saw I had messages from you.” She wiggled the fingers she had laying on Dar’s stomach, giving her a friendly scratch. “So I answered them right there on the gangway, and annoyed the heckies out of some really big guys trying to move wood onboard.”

“Oh.” Now that Kerry was here, and more than paying attention to her, Dar felt a little abashed. “No problem.  I figured you got tied up in details. Thought I’d come over here for a while then grab us some dinner.” She looked around. “My PDA’s in the locker.”

“Details.” Kerry eased herself up and off her living bench. “Oh, my god did I get details. I got introduced into the world of people who live on ships.” She paused and adjusted one of her wristbands. “Please, please don’t tell me the Navy is like this, because if it is, I can’t believe your dad survived in it as long as he did.”

“Eh.” Dar watched as her partner went to the first machine, the bicep curl and sat down in it, carefully adjusting the weight stack before she fit her hands to the handles and began her exercise. “People. Politics. Can’t have one with out the other. You know that.”

“Hm.” Kerry grunted a little with the effort of bringing the weighted bar up. “More I see people, more I love Chino.”

“Gruff.” Chino trotted over and licked her knee.

Dar got up and decided she’d had enough of the crunches. She went over to the pulldown machine and sat under the bar, sticking the pin into a fairly significant amount of iron plates. Fitting her hands over the handles of the bar, she carefully pulled it downward, wedging her knees under the supports as she tested out how her shoulder was feeling about the weight.

So far so good. Dar flexed her arms slowly and brought the bar down, glad the twinging ache had finally faded from her injury.  It had taken a long time, though Kerry had probably been right in telling her it would have been shorter if she’d done the physical therapy she’d been told to.

“How’s that feel?” Kerry asked.

“Good.” Dar straightened her arms and let the weight up. She pulled it down again, a little faster this time.

“You look great when you sweat.”

Dar opened one eye and peered at the tricep machine. Kerry winked at her, and stuck her tongue out. “Everything going alright at the pier?”

“Yeah, it’s coming together.” Kerry straightened her arms out, forcing the machine lever down. “You find the hacker?”

Dar grunted, and released a little snort. “No, but if he comes back, he’ll have a surprise waiting.” She said. “But I spent some time in our gateways today and I gotta admit, Ker. I’m a little worried.”



Kerry sighed. “Well, to be honest, I’m a little worried about how I’m going to pull off this project competitively, so we’re even.”

They were both silent for a few minutes, concentrating on their respective exercises. Finally, Dar let her bar up and sighed. “Know what I think?”


“Ice cream.” Dar got up from her bench and picked her towel up, extending a hand towards Kerry. “We can finish this later.” 

Kerry got up and took her hand without hesitation. “You’re on. Let’s go.”  She followed Dar out the door, not giving the room a single backward glance.


Ice cream actually turned into dinner out on the beach club’s ocean facing deck. A nice breeze had come up, and it was very comfortable sitting outside with a lightly fluttering hurricane candle on the table and the prospect of dessert yet to come before them.

Kerry let her head rest against one of the roof supports, her eyes lazily taking in the waving palm fronds down the beach. “I don’t know, honey.” She said. “Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. If you hadn’t issued that challenge, you’d have never found the weaknesses you just told me about.”

“Maybe we.. maybe I should have been looking for them before now.” Dar was also leaning against the wall supports, one long leg slung over the chair arm.

“Dar, you’re the chief information officer of the company. I think a lot of other people, like Mark, should have been looking for this stuff. Not you.” Kerry replied honestly. “It’s ridiculous that you need to be sitting on the floor in some closet trapping hackers, you know?”

A slightly stronger breeze made itself felt, whipping their hair around a little. Some sea grape leaves blew across the tile floor, one of them ending up on Kerry’s foot. She reached down and picked it up, twirling it in her fingers.  “Kinda windy.”

Dar leaned to one side and looked out at the sea, spotting whitecaps. One eyebrow hiked up. “Don’t tell me another damn storm snuck up on us.”  She checked her PDA, but there were no ominous looking messages on it.

“Mm.” A slightly dreamy smile crossed Kerry’s face. “Oh, man, I’d love it if it did.”

That made Dar smile back, a frank grin of appreciation that lightened her entire face. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“It was.” Kerry impulsively reached across the table and fit her hand into Dar’s. “Want to go down to the cabin this weekend?”

Without even thinking, Dar nodded agreement. “Yeah.”

“I have a meeting on Friday afternoon. How about we do this…” Kerry’s mind raced over the details, thinking about their dual schedules. “How about we ride together Friday morning, and I get a ride over to the port – then you can pick me up and..vroom.”

“Absolutely.” Dar agreed instantly. “We can stop for dinner on the road somewhere and watch the sunset.”

Kerry glanced at her watch and sighed mournfully.  “It’s only Tuesday.”

Dar’s cell went off before she could suggest something crazy like going after dinner. She took it out and checked the caller id. “Uh oh.” She opened it. “Yeah, Mark. What’s up?”

“You in the building, boss?”

Dar glanced around her. “Me? No. I’m home. Why?”

“Shit. Someone’s messing around in here and I thought it was you.. looked like what was going on this afternoon.” The MIS manager cursed. “Okay, thanks.. lemme get back to you. Hey.. you like.. locked that door, right?”

Dar’s gaze went inward briefly, as she carefully traced her actions from the afternoon. “Yes.” She said briefly. “I went up to a meeting on 14, then came back down and did a few more scans. I left the closet around four. Shouldn’t have been any access after that.”

“Gotcha. Bye.” Mark hung up hastily, cutting off a yell in the background, and the sound of a buzzer going off.

Dar looked at her cell, looked at Kerry, and then they both got up and headed for the condo at a run.


Dar could hear the beeping of the alerts as she cleared the doorway into her office and put her hands on her desk, vaulting over it to land near her chair on the other side. “Son of a bitch!”

Kerry forced herself to slow down enough to close the door behind them, making sure not to slam it on Chino’s tail as the Labrador bounded in after her, tongue lolling out.  She hesitated, then grabbed her briefcase from the dining room table where she’d left it, carrying it into Dar’s study and taking possession of the couch inside.

As she hit the leather, it started raining, and for a brief second she had a flashback, startling and vivid, of the first time she’d been in the room.  But it only lasted that one second, because then she was yanking her laptop out of it’s case and opening it, waiting impatiently for the machine to boot up. “What’s going on?”

“Fuck if I know.” Dar’s fingers were nothing but a blur on the keyboard. “Something’s loose in the network…Jesus Christ I hope I didn’t do something stupid and leave something open today.”

“The door?’ Kerry was rapidly logging in.

“No.. no, that I know I shut. Something in the router.. I was doing those changes so damn fast..” Dar’s brow was knit in a furrow. “When I was talking to you, when Mark was seeing the blocks.”

“Oh.” Kerry called up her network monitor and keyed it, sitting there for a minute as it started registering and lines began blinking red across the screen. “Holy cow.” She looked quickly at Dar, seeing the tension scrawled across her face.

Dar hesitated, her fingertips flexing above the keys, undecided on what to do. She hated not understanding what was happening – far as she could tell random data was flooding the network and she could not find the source of it.

She could shut everything down, and by definition that should stop the flood, but it also would take down everyone and everything using their network including the remote monitoring consoles.

Kerry watched the emotions cross her partner’s face, and decided she should do something more productive. She started up her analyzer and grabbed the main switch, opening up the data stream and focusing her attention on what it was showing her.

A lot of garbage. Kerry flipped to her filters and cut off the standard network traffic, keying back to see what was left. “Dar.”

“Uh?’ Dar looked up from setting accounting parsers in place.

“It’s not coming from outside.”

“What?” Dar got up and sprawled on the couch arm to peer over Kerry’s shoulder.

“It’s coming from inside the office.” Kerry traced a line with her finger. “Look. Here… I don’t know what that is.”

Dar blinked slowly, exhaling a little. “Neither do I.” She admitted. “Worm? Better tell Mark.”

Kerry hit enter on the text message she’d already been composing. “Done… Dar, what would put out that kind of traffic? It’s all tcp unicast.”

Dar slid back into her seat and continued her scanning, slamming filters into place on interface after interface, attempting to staunch the flow of traffic. “Son of a son of a son of a…”

Kerry got up and peered over her shoulder this time, her machine telling her nothing new other than the traffic was continuing to build.  “That must be pretty damn close to the core, Dar… you want me to start shutting down the building floor by floor?”

“Might have to.” Dar felt herself starting to sweat. She could imagine the calls beginning to come in to the ops center, and speculated on how long it would take before her phone, and Kerry’s, started ringing. “What if it’s directly in the core?” She applied another access lists, reviewing the results. “God damn it, where is this thing!!!!”

Kerry slowly backed off, then went to her laptop, acting on a hunch. “What switch is the conference center in, Dar?”

“Conference center? Ten. Why?”

“Let’s just say I smell rotten fish.”  Kerry logged into the switch and checked the top traffic port. One switch, out of twenty seven in the building. What were the odds? “Dar.”

Dar scrambled out of her chair and nearly crawled into the seat next to Kerry, her eyes avidly searching the screen. “Bingo. Shut the damn thing off.”

Kerry rapidly disabled the port, as Dar jumped up onto her desk and swung the monitor towards her, watching the read-outs in tense silence.  The signals jumped for a moment more, then slowly settled down to a more even keel.

Dar slapped the desk, and turned her head towards Kerry. “Talk to me.”

“Okay.” Kerry felt her heart rate slow down, though her fingers were still shaking a little. “Inside the office.”


“Security audit just completely two weeks ago, and it was clean. No new hires since then.”


Kerry got up and went over to sit in Dar’s chair, folding her hands together on the desk. “I think this is my fault.”  She paused, then looked right up into Dar’s eyes. “Because I’m the jerk who had four competitors sitting in our conference center with laptops and gear, and didn’t ask for a security scan afterward.”

Dar’s face remained absolutely still for a very long instant. Then she slowly released her breath, her shoulders relaxing as she leaned on one elbow. “Quest’s meeting.”

Kerry nodded.

“There was a lot going on then, Kerry.”

“Don’t make excuses for me.” The blond woman replied. “There is no excuse for that, Dar, and we both know it.” She watched her partner’s expression carefully, a little surprised to see the strong planes relax, and a faint, almost sheepish smile cross her lips. “Don’t we?”

Dar traced a random pattern on her desk surface with her finger. “I’d like to agree with you.” She finally said, in a quiet voice. “Except that I’m finding it hard to forget what you were being distracted by the most.”

Mm. Kerry nibbled the inside of her lip. “Well.”

Dar’s cell phone rang. She picked it up and opened it. “Yeah?”

“Did you do that? You stopped it? What was it? Where is it? What ‘d you do??” Mark’s words spilled out so fast and so loud Dar almost dropped her phone. “C’mon, Boss! Don’t tell me it just stopped, please???”

Without answering, Dar just handed the phone over to Kerry. “Have him find whatever it is, and secure it. We’ll do an analysis tomorrow.”

Kerry took the phone as she watched Dar get up and wander out of the study into the living room. “Hi, Mark.” She finally sighed. “I.. um.. found the problem. It’s in the number ten switch, blade six, port thirty.”

Rattling keys. “It’s disabled!”

“Well, yes.”

“That’s the big conference room. I’ll get some techs down there. What ya think –the projector system go nuts again?” Mark’s voice sounded utterly relieved. “Son of a hoota… that scared the crap out of me. I thought we were getting slammed.”

“We were.” Kerry hardly knew how to feel inside. “I think we might have gotten something planted on us during that meeting we had here in the blackout. Remember?”

Silence. “Oh, man!” Mark nearly howled. “I had that on my schedule… I had a damn sticky note here to check… oh, crap. Crap. I’ll go check it myself. Crap. Sorry, Kerry.”


“Call you right back.” Mark hung up the line, still obviously very upset.

Kerry folded the phone shut and sat there for a moment. She heard a sound and looked up to see Dar standing in the doorway, leaning against one edge of it in almost the same pose she’d seen her in the very first time they’d met.  “Did you ever think we’d come to a point where we both needed to quit?”  She asked.

Dar pushed off the doorjam and came over, flopping down in the couch and patting the seat next to her.  Kerry got up and settled onto the cool leather, hitching one leg up over Dar’s left knee. “You thought it was your fault, I thought it was my fault, Mark thinks it’s his fault… the hell with it, Dar. Let’s just all go open a taco stand down on Card Sound road.”

“You like tacos?”

Kerry leaned against her partner. “Not particularly. I like fajitas better but taco stand sounded easier and more fun.”

“Would we have to get a Chihuahua?”

“No, but Chino would have to wear a hat.” Kerry appreciated the quiet humor very much. She was upset at herself, but like Dar she was finding it very hard to regret her choices and so indulging in their light banter at least distracted her mind. “You think she’d like wearing a hat?”

“Sure.” Dar leaned closer and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t beat yourself up, Ker.”

Kerry sighed.

“Did I ever tell you about how I found out about the outage the night you ended up coming over and helping me fix it?”

More banter. Kerry gave in and snuggled up. “The night we kissed?”

“Uh huh.”

“Mm.. only thing I remember about that whole thing is opening the door, seeing you in your pajamas, and forgetting what my name was.”

Dar chuckled softly. “Well, the ops center called me, and told me the whole damn network was down. You know what I said to them?”


“No problem, guys. Just go on home.”

“Oh, you did not.” Kerry started laughing, despite herself. “C’mon, Dar. I know you’re trying to make me feel better, but really.”

“Really.” Dar went nose to nose with her. “I told them to go home, no sense in them sticking around if everything was down, right? Made sense to me at the time.”

“Really?”Kerry tried to imagine that, and just started laughing again. “Oh my god.”

Dar gave her a hug. “Let’s wait to see what Mark finds, and instead of beating ourselves up, figure out how we’re gonna get even.”

Would they? Kerry wondered seriously if they should.  Oh well. Tomorrow’d be yet another day.