What excuse to get out of town for a day or so?
Wrong order. Plan like a mission.
Get to Eddie and do a double switch-out of the eye and tech. And the glasses. It didn’t work without the glasses. And a battery. She’d need a spare battery. Or two. Which lab had the graphene batteries? Would it matter if she had only the one — the recharge was rapid. Right. If she could do it, an extra battery.
Then back her desk to get the new collar and harness. Do the adaptations she’d considered a game, a test of her ability to strategise and adapt.
Then get out. Without being searched.
Who was on duty today? Which exits had people who knew Safi and called the dog by name? Her mind ran through the lists of guards and exits, schedules and systems.
Then home, the neighbour with the excuse if anyone came looking. Safi nodded. Simple, direct.
Eddie first. It would be the first time she lied to him. Her one and only ally and friend since Thom, and if she had to lie, steal and cheat to get that bastard rat to face up to the consequences of his actions, it was nothing.
Her footsteps shuffled to the west, toward the ex-fil area, where Bunny would be chewing on a toy, growling at every noise, spinning in circles to find a comfortable spot on the cold hard floor.
His new harness — should she get that first? The batteries would fit in the slits on the upper part, and the LRNG might find a temporary home in the collar …
Dog. Harness. Eddie. Out.
If she could roll her eyes, she would. It was stupid, ridiculous. A blind person chasing an accomplished undercover spy. Safi smiled a grim line that clenched her jaw and bunched the scars into a painful lump.
The backpack for Bunny’s gear swung against her hip with every step. Her heart beat staccato, so loud she was sure Eddie would hear her coming several corridors before she arrived.
Several clicks, the clacks of Bunny’s nails, the slaps of her shoes, the rattle of gear in the pack. She had to appear comfortable with the noise, with the burden she carried. Slow down, bring Bunny closer to her side, show him the calm signal. Best behaviour, Bud. And that was something she’d better not say aloud.
“Hi, Sal,” Safi said to Eddie’s assistant as she strode through the door. The main office door was closed and flashing to indicate a secure-lock code. Sal stood and grabbed a sheaf of papers and unmarked manila folders from her in-tray. Drawings. Eddie must have a new project.
“He’s not here,” Sal said. “He’s gone to the lab. To meet you, he said.” She slid the papers into the top drawer of her secure three-drawer filing cabinet.
“How long ago?”
“Not long. A few minutes. Do you need to see him? I can sign off anything you need to leave.” Sal leaned over her desk. “You don’t have an escort?”
“Not yet. I have to swap some tech gear, so not just signing off.”
“Oh, of course. Yes, he took your box with him.”
“All the files and bits and pieces he brings up here to work on after hours. It’s usually in the safe, but once you’re unclass, he has to take it back down and sign it in there.” She nodded at the clock. “Before Security shuts down the lift access.”
“I’ll chase him up — which way?”
“The goods lift, central barrier, red line, C724.” Sal opened her mouth. Closed it. “Do you want me to escort you there?”
“Left or right out the door?”
“Don’t say it!”
Too late. Bunny barked and ran in front of Safi. His hackles rose until he looked like a lion. Safi clamped one hand over an ear and leaned back to stop his momentum. She didn’t dare let the lead go. He’d probably attack the poor woman.
“I’ll get him out.”
“What did I do?” Sal wailed.
The backpack slid down her arm and blocked any hand movement. She couldn’t signal him back. “He’s fine if you call him Dog or Bunny; anything else and he turns into a wolf. It’s why he still gets a trainer. Don’t know that’s it’s helped at all.” It didn’t help that Safi didn’t mind.
“Luck,” Sal said in between the snapping of teeth and the rolling growl, punctuated with extreme decibel barks that echoed without loss of volume.
“Bunny, seek,” Safi turned left and pulled the door closed behind her. “Seek. Eddie, vite.”
Bunny took off at a fast trot, mouth closed, barks now off. His claws slid and clicked, which would be easy to follow if they were outside. In here, with walls that echoed and ceilings that deadened sound, Safi’s ears were bombarded by false information. She slid her hand into the outer pocket of the backpack, ran her fingers over the cold globes of glass.
The ping of an arriving lift cut through the cacophony. She slid the glass into the small boxes.
“Wait! Eddie, wait!” Safi yelled.
A second ping rang along the empty space.
“Eddie!” she dropped the lead and let Bunny run. His claws slid — a corner. Safi slowed to a walk, veered left until her shoulder touched the wall, unhooked her cane and flicked it out to full length.
There will be a scene 2(c) … next week.