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A tiny spider bot from Are’s locket had found its way quite easily to Doc’s rooms without any steering from the girl. Through its cameras linked to the visual data disks implanted in their eyes, Are and Lav could see that either Gregor had taken his sweet time going to Doc, or that he was just biding his time because Gregor was leaning against his doorframe, watching the other man.

When Doc shifted the papers on his desk, studying some of them intensely, Gregor smirked slowly, entering the room fully and closing the door behind him with a soft fsh. ”Knock knock,” he said in a dry tone, his eyes moving around the room before settling back on the doctor..

The doctor's head shot up. “Gregor,” he said simply, though his hands fingered his pens nervously. When Gregor looked to his hands with an amused smirk, he placed his pen on the desk quietly. He bit his lip and glanced behind the man, to the closed door. Gregor had already locked it. “You shouldn't be here. You’re too early.”

Gregor ignored him, moving to his desk and looking over all the papers on it. He ignored Doc for a moment, reading one with a little bit more focus. “I'm hurt, Doc. You don't want to see me?” he asked, his tone was more than mocking, but there was a hint of sentiment to it that couldn’t be ignored. 

Doc covered the paper Gregor was studying with another, suspiciously watching the other man move casually about his office. “It's not that I don't want you here, it's just that I'm working right now.” He again glanced to the closed door, as if making sure it was truly locked before he lowered his voice to a whisper, “What if someone walks in on us?”

Gregor shook his head with a mocking grin, “No one will walk in on us,” he replied, walking around Doc until he was behind the man. He stopped, and leaned his head over his shoulder, almost intimately, before his fingers went to the papers again, gently pushing aside the paper Doc had used to cover the one he’d been reading. The two stayed like that, with Gregor’s arms on either side of Doc and leaning almost into the man.

Doc tilted his head, his eyes on Gregor almost as though he were memorizing the man’s face. “How would you know?” he asked, shifting until their faces weren’t as close. His arms twitched as if they wanted to raise and either touch Gregor or push him away, the girls weren’t certain, but they remained where they were. Gregor made a soft, thoughtful noise before pulling another paper from under Doc’s arm, where he appeared to have been hiding it.

“Because my parents are throwing a small get-together in the garden. No one wants to miss anything there,” he replied, tutting at whatever was written on the paper.

“Can you get the spider close enough to see the writing?” Lav asked.

Are shook her head, before adding “No,” in case her friend was too busy watching to see her. “I’m afraid if I move it, they’ll notice.”

“I don’t think they’re going to notice anything but each other,” Lav responded with a snort.

“Better safe than sorry.”

The two were caught back up in the two men’s interactions when Doc pushed Gregor away from him and stood up to create more distance between them when he crossed the room to a small centrifuge. “I don't believe you. I think you're making that up so that you can get what you want.” 

Gregor smirked. “That is something I'd do, isn't it?” he asked tauntingly, following him so that he stood at his side, far closer than strictly necessary, eyeing the tubes that he pulled from the machine. The girls didn’t even have to see the labels to know the tubes were of one or both of their blood, considering the thick, milky white layer between the plasma and the buffy coat. They didn’t really know what it was, but it was very recognizable when compared to other blood.

Doc nodded, but something about the vials made him smile and he looked to Gregor with hungry eyes. “So, are your parents really throwing a get-together?” he asked. 

“They are,” he assured him. “So it’s just the two of us and no worry of anyone walking in,” he added pointedly.

Doc squinted. “Shouldn’t you be there, too?” he suggested, eyeing Gregor with mistrust. “Doesn't that just double the risk of us getting caught?” 

Gregor shook his head, “With Arenaria and Lanvedula missing, they’ll simply assume I spent my time searching for the girls. Trust me,” he said confidently.

Doc eyed Gregor suspiciously, but soon nodded, as though he couldn’t be bothered to distrust the man any longer. “Fine, but if someone walks in on us, I'm blaming everything on you,” he said, keeping a straight face as he looked Gregor straight in the eyes. 

“You go ahead and do that.” Gregor hardly seemed worried, and really he had no reason to. No matter what they were doing, his family could cover his involvement by pinning it all on Doc.

“I will,” Doc promised before showing him two vials. “They’re the same.”

Gregor nodded. “I can see that.”

“You don’t understand.” He pulled out another vial, this one with different levels. The milky white layer was between the buffy coat and the red blood cells. “This is normally Are’s blood,” he explained. “I think the difference in the effects of the modifications can be directly linked to this.”

“So if you were capable of fixing her blood?”

“Then I can use this as a basis to equalize her better.”

“And—”

It was the worst time for the spider to malfunction. But that was what happened. Are and Lav looked at each other in disbelief.

“Did you charge them last night?” Lav accused Are, who gave her a look of contempt, before realizing that no, she hadn’t. She hadn’t charged her locket since she’d last used it, which had been a little over three weeks past.

She covered her eyes in embarrassment. “I forgot,” she admitted. “Do you think—”

Knowing where she was going with her thoughts, Lav pushed Are out of range from the spider bot and to the stairs. “It’s a lost bot. No saving it. Let’s go to your room and—”

“Figure out what in Capecchi’s name they were talking about? I agree.”

“I was going to say see if we could link into the spider’s memory, because it might not be sending it to us anymore, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t recording.”

Lav and Are exchanged determined looks. Between being betrayed by Are’s benefactors, attacked by a COPS, and learning that Gregor and Doc were working together to do something to Are, they had a lot to think about. A lot of research, a lot of hacking, it was going to be fun for them.


Next Part of Chapter Four: Cell

Next Part of Rich: Chapter Five

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Back in the safety of her room, Are threw herself onto her bed, face-down and waited until Lav had settled cautiously at the edge of the bed. She turned onto her back and looked at Lav. “What happened, Lav? Something went wrong there. I'm positive of that, but what was it?”

“That COPS was watching us is what happened. I was into the security data when I got a ‘caught you’ message and spotted him. He caught me watching him and I went to warn you. Someone tried snatching me, and since I couldn't find the COPS, I’m going with him as the most likely suspect. No one in the museum seemed to notice, even though he literally lifted me off my feet and into a service hallway. So, Are,” she said her friend’s name harder than necessary, purposely not looking at her, “I think we were just set up.”

Are frowned, glaring at the wall that held her holo-screen. “Great. And I was the one that fell for it.” Are couldn’t believe she’d been that stupid. It had looked easy, but when everything had started to get too complicated, they should have pulled out right then. It was her fault that Lav had almost been taken. And why had they tried to take Lav? Other than being her partner, what did the other girl have to do with the theft? What did the COPS have to do with anything?

Had the chip been worth it? Maybe. She hated herself for even thinking that, because no information was worth more than Lav’s well-being. She let out an irked breath before rubbing her eyes and then turning her attention outward, to her friend who still held her arm awkwardly. “Okay. We have to fix you up, first of all, and then we'll figure everything else out, okay?”

“Sure,” Lav said, making a face when she shifted position. After a moment, she made an apologetic face and looked to her friend. “And don't be hard on yourself, it sounded legit enough.”

Are smiled at her, feeling even worse. She sat up and scooted off her bed. “Come on. Up, up,” she said, changing the subject without even acknowledging the forgiveness. She didn’t deserve it yet, but she would once they figured out what was going on.”We're going to go see if we can get that shoulder of yours looked at by a professional.” She walked back to her room's door, and motioned for Lav to follow, though the other girl gave her a knowing grimace.

“I’m sure it can wait until I’m home,” Lav tried to assure Are, whose stubborn look made the darker teenager sigh, knowing she as fighting a losing battle.

Are paused and looked back. “Don’t make me resort to drastic measures.” There were no more words needed to get Lav off of the bed and following her. Both girls were uncharacteristically silent on the walk to Are’s family physician, who lived only a few stairways away. Both were deep in their own thoughts. Lav was going over their earlier trip, trying to determine where they—or rather she had buggered up enough to have been not only caught slipping into the data, but almost abducted and for what reason. Are was trying to determine if the entire job had been a set up and she had been blinded by the promise of information, or if there had been a change of plans at some point.

They almost passed by the physician’s rooms, Are catching herself before they could. She tapped Lav on her shoulder to catch her attention and when she had it, gestured to the room. The door was open, so she knocked twice as she walked in, almost as if it were out of habit rather than courtesy.

“Hellooooo! Doctor! You in here?” she called needlessly as she approached the doctor at his desk, keeping her grip on Lav’s wrist to force her to follow her inside.

The doctor ignored Are for a second as he finished writing something down. Are waited patiently with a wide smile, while Lav fidgeted restlessly, wincing every time she shifted her shoulder. After a minute or two, he looked up. “What?” he demanded, glaring at Are.

Are grinned and leaned on his desk, getting all in the doctor's personal space. “I need, well we need, your help,” she said, managing to get a quick glance at the paperwork he’d been filling out. He covered it before she could understand much more than that it was for Gregor. 

The doctor continued to glare. “What is it? Can’t you tell I’m busy?” he gestured to his desk, which had x-rays, blood tests, and all sorts of other information. She couldn’t fathom why he had it all out, cluttering his desk.

Are stepped aside to present Lav, who avoided making eye contact. The doctor stood from his chair and walked around his desk. He took out a pair of glasses and slipped them onto his face, scrutinizing Lav. His eyes settled on her shoulder before returning to her face and while he seemed to relax a bit, his tone didn’t soften.

“Well? What happened this time?” he asked, reaching behind him for a short needle. He set it down on top of his desk and gestured for Lav to come to him.

Lav flinched at the sight of the needle and backed a step away, “You make it seem like I get hurt all the time,” she complained before attempting to step out of the room. Her own physician at home never used needles. The woman preferred the needle free injections. She wasn’t a sadist like Doc, who never seemed to pass up on an opportunity to inject her with something.

“You do, Lav,” the doctor replied drily.

“Her shoulder is displaced or something,” Are said, blocking off the exit. They both knew that Doc was the only physician with the authority to attend to the two of them, given their special genetic modifications. While it wasn’t an experimental modification, the changes made to them on a genetic level were still rather new and so far, only Doc had been trained on how to work with them. That was why he had personal chambers in both of their homes.

  Gesturing once again for Lav to come to him, which she did reluctantly, Doc lifted his hands to gently touch the injured area. He leaned forward to examine it more closely before pushing slightly on the skin around it. As he was working, Are pretended to be curious and watched everything that he did very closely, close enough to make the doctor grind his teeth. He put a hand to her face to shove her away roughly, so she backed up to his desk.

“It doesn't seem too bad. Can you lift it at all?” he asked. 

Lav glared at him, “Are you that sadistic? No. I can't.”

The doctor tilted his head in thought. “On a scale from one to ten, how badly does it hurt? Ten being the most painful.”

Are snickered, turning once she was sure that Doc attention was on Lav. Shuffling the papers as quietly as she could, she tried to find the one with Gregor’s name on it. All she found instead was that all the papers on his desk were about her and Lav, trying to determine something she couldn’t make out. “Yeah, he's sadistic,” she said distractedly, turning back around just in time. Doc glared at her with disdain, and so she continued on, trying to embarrass him for Lav’s amusement. “But, from what I've heard, he's also a little masochistic, eh, Doc?”

Lav smiled at Are, appreciating her attempts at humor. “Eight at worst,” she replied, getting his attention back onto her.

He frowned slightly but nodded. The doctor walked to a small cabinet and pulled out some bandages. “Alright then, the best I can do for you right now is to secure it and give you pain meds. Until I’m sure how bad it is, I’m not going to shift it or try the Straits on you.” He walked back over and began to apply the bandages appropriately, though there was a challenge in his voice, as though he wanted the girl to push him to use something on her that he’d never tried before.

Lav had been too busy watching Are as the other girl picked around the room to pay attention to the doctor. She looked at him warily when he started to tightly wrap her shoulder, restricting her movement. “Huh?” she asked.

The doctor sighed, deeply annoyed. “I'm not saying your shoulder isn’t broken, though it’s obviously not dislocated. I could do the tests, but you know they don’t always show rights with you. Still, give it a few hours and if you still think it might be, or the pain worsens, come back and I’ll do more,” he said, and finished off the securing with a quick injection from the short needle.

Lav squealed in pain, a moment late and by that time, Doc was finished. He walked back to his desk and stood above it, looking at them both over his glasses. “Now get, before I call an exterminator.” He sat down and picked up his pen again, not looking at them.

Are smiled sympathetically, helping Lav to the door when the other girl swayed on her feet for a moment. Doc’s painkillers always hit her a little harder than they should. “He must be anxious,” she fake-whispered loudly enough for the man to her. “Maybe his secret lover hasn't come to visit him in a while.” She snickered when she heard the impatient exhale from the doctor. 

He's irritable,” Lav muttered, regaining her composure as the drug spread through her body and dulled the pain.

 “Isn't he always?” Are replied, steering them in the direction of her room.

“Not unless you two have done something to him,” she was answered. Both girls glanced up sharply, to see Are’s brother before them in his costly suit. The suit told them that they’d caught him before he was due at his job, assisting the personal assistant to the Seer.

“Gregor,” Lav said in a slightly clipped voice, acknowledging his presence only because he had sent her home to learn manners the last time she hadn't.

“Lavendula,” he replied, before looking to Are in a deeply disapproving way, “What did you two do to him to make him irritable, Arenaria?” he asked. While the question was phrased to include both girls, it was implicitly aimed at Are, who was almost always the principle reason behind Doc’s bad moods.

Are smiled up at Gregor prettily and inched around him carefully, her hands behind her back. “We didn't do anything to him this time, just got a shot for Lav. And maybe said a few things. Nothing real bad, this time.” She smiled brighter and continued to inch away from him. “Well, it's a real big shame, but we've got plans to keep up, Lessons to finish, so, I'll see ya later.” With another smile, she walked calmly away, fully expecting Lav to be right behind her.

Lav smiled sweetly at Gregor, “Well, seeing as I'm simply here to be with Are, I should be...going,” she said as quickly as she could, trying to get away from him.

His eyes, however zeroed in on her arm. “How did you hurt your arm?” he asked sharply.

Lav flinched, freezing in place. “Um, it's a good story,” she said, trying to think of an excuse that didn’t put them in the museum. She drew a blank and when Gregor glanced away from her, to Doc’s room, she saw an opportunity. “Maybe I'll tell you one day. Better go catch up with Are before she gets into trouble.” She gave a nervous laugh when Gregor’s eyes narrowed, but he nodded and she breathed a sigh of relief, running after Are.

“You. Are. Dead to me,” she told Are, once she found her at the nearest stairwell, hiding in plain sight beside a potted plant. “You left me with that!”

Are tried to look apologetic. “Well, we did mess with his precious,” she joked. “I thought I was beginning to feel that thing you feel around him, so I ran,” she claimed, refusing to use the term Lav had for the strange type of control her brother had, on a biological level, over her friend. “You should've just followed me out, no comments made.”

“If you could feel the Juice, you would know that I couldn’t without permission,” Lav stated, reminding her friend for the hundredth time that her free will was a lot less free with Gregor around. “Besides, I’ve been trying to get on his ‘good’ side. I don’t think he actually has one.”

Lav began to head up the stairs, to Are’s room, but the brunette held out a hand, stopping her. Seeing the considering expression on her face, Lav raised both of her eyebrows in a silent question.

 “Okay,” Are began. “Two options. One, we go and make plans for revenge. I have a chip they gave me full of information even you wouldn’t have been able to find. I don’t know if it’s safe, considering everything else today, but it’s a good place to start. Or two, we go and eavesdrop on them, see what they're really up to. I can’t be the only one wondering why Gregor goes to Doc every day for no apparent reason. I think they’re up to something but I don’t know what.” She looked at Lav expectantly. “I know what I want to do, but considering my choices haven’t been so great today, it’s up to you.”

Lav was torn. On the one hand, her shoulder still hurt past the dulling and revenge was high on her top three things to do. On the other hand, she had theories on what the men were up to and she really wanted to know if she was right. One option took anywhere between a few minutes to an hour, maybe two. The other was an undetermined amount of time with no guaranteed satisfaction.

“Eavesdrop. We can start revenge later, like tomorrow, when I'm not so hazy and can use my rig.”

 

Are grinned widely. “Good, 'cause I wanna torture Doc some more.” 



Next part of Chapter Three: Cell

Next part of Rich: Chapter Four

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The museum was a large building, one of the largest in the City, which was to be expected because it held all of the City’s most prized possessions, both those on exhibit and those hidden within the vaults. In their entire lives, the two girls had been there, with their Educator fifteen times—once for each year they were old—and for their own personal pleasure, never. Both supposed it would be a new experience without an Educator describing everything there with the lesson blurb.

 Lav glanced at Are when they made it to the doors, “I still want to know what you’re hiding from me,” she muttered as they were screened for entrance. Seeing their credit information on the door pad, both girls pressed their hands onto it to gain access. After a blue light shone to indicate their identities had been verified, the door slid open to allow them entrance.

“I’m selling you into a marriage, along with the gift,” Are stated calmly with a simple smile for her friend. She glanced around the place and quickly took note of all of the cameras and other security features. The information she had been fed was correct and they were precisely where she’d expected. There were a surprisingly few visible, however, which definitely meant there had to be some in hiding.  Those were the ones she still had to find on her own.

Lav laughed, and seemed to shake her head at her friend. What she was really doing was checking for weapons, people with cameras and for any other recording device. She checked over each person quickly, coming to conclusions about most of the groups. She counted forty-two people, which she was positive meant the museum was more populous than on average. Most of them had the cheekbone shimmer of an old bog plug and a few had the left eye glint of a flash plug, but those seemed to be the only recording devices—aside from the surveillance domes.

She leaned forward as if to whisper a joke into Are’s ear, “A few COPS, but I don’t think any of them are here to intercept anything, more likely for a little extra as security since they’re out of uniform. There are a lot of artists, old Rich and a few young Rich so we don’t stand out too much. There are three weird, though. They look like Rich but I don’t recognize them. New money? Maybe meebs dressing up as plebes to feel good. I can’t tell why so many people are here, though. It doesn’t seem to be a Lesson,” she whispered. “Maybe we should come back when there are less people around?”

Are smiled and coughed slightly, to give herself time to examine the people. She followed this with a roll of her eyes and a short, barking laugh. “Don’t say something like that in public,” she whispered loudly. “Someone might hear you.” She playfully shoved Lav and walked up to a piece of art on a wall. 

Lav scoffed, “Right.” But she was wary. Her friend was acting out of character, almost as though she knew something that made her skittish. Lav shook the thought away and followed Are to the piece, staring at the lines of the painting. She squinted and turned her head, trying to see the appeal, but coming up with nothing. It looked like something a child would toss together while still trying to understand their motor functions. “What is the point of something so disastrous?” she asked loudly. She wasn’t a big fan of abstract art. She wasn’t really much on any art, but abstract art was definitely her least favorite—possibly because it was Gregor’s favorite.

Are elbowed her buddy in the side. “Dangerous words, friend,” she warned under her breath. Dangerous words, indeed, for several heads had turned sharply, accusing the strange child of blasphemies far beyond her years. The last thing they needed or wanted was to cause a scene and gain attention. It would cause questions about them being there, and neither had a good explanation for their trip—not one that would be believed.

Lav pulled the band from her hair to let it fall around her face, but didn’t stop speaking. “Maybe, but I don’t see the point in cacophony. Whether it be in the form of drawn, written, or sounded art.” She chose not to make any direct eye contact with those around her, because she felt the artistics around her readying to intrude. Eye contact would be the opening they needed to school her on the art.

Are sighed, not sure why her friend was acting as she was. Looking around, she used Lav’s comments as an excuse to drag her further into the museum, past the abstract and concept art, to the more realistic, which was closer to where the rock would be placed. “Hush your complaints if you want to live. I’ve heard nasty stories about art fanatics,” she said, trying to keep them off of any guard’s watch list. 

Lav giggled, “Well you and I both know that I just cut our expected time in here by half,” she whispered into her friends ear before passing her, to stand next to a man she knew to be a COPS. Are smiled after her, as ever glad that she’d underestimated her friend’s cunning. Both girls tilted their heads at the sculpture the man was looking at. Lav tried to look at it from all angles, but for the life of her, she couldn’t understand what was holding his attention to it. In fact, the way he was looking at it told her that he was pointedly not looking somewhere else and she wanted to know where that somewhere was.

Seeing that her chatty friend was about to say something, Are grabbed Lav’s arm and swung her to look at a painting up on the wall. “You see that? That tiny little figure in the distance over behind that pathetic shack-like building? How much do you want to bet that it’s an authority figure?” she asked, her voice bland as she tried to determine if her other half realized that she had been about to converse with a COPS. That was a horrible idea, considering that any COPS worth his or her grain recognized members of the Adela family.

Lav smiled innocently, “And why would you think that?” The way she said it told Are that she had missed something, that her friend had noticed something she hadn’t.

Are raised an eyebrow. “Who else would be sneaking around the buildings like that with children playing in the foreground, eh?” 

“An assassin, a politician, a parent, a thief, a murderer, a kidnapper, or you. No one knows why you’d do it, but you would.” Lav turned away from Are when she was done talking, ignoring when Are gave her the driest look that she could, only to see the COPS had moved away to another part of the building. She squinted after him, but he kept moving. She started to head after him, but a metal conceptual piece caught both girls before they could keep moving further in, to the main exhibit room.

They walked to the strange metal sculpture, something that looked like it was reaching towards the sky, but falling into a very dark place. Tapping her implant, Are listened to the information on the piece. It was a recent contribution from a small-time artist that seemed to strike a resounding emotion in the Seer. It was made of twelve separate parts, each simultaneously lifting but falling, and all different. Listening, they were told that the structure was made of plastic, metal, gems, gold, wood, and clay, and then painted the silver of metal before being splashed with black paint. It kept their attention far longer than any other piece.

“Huh, how peculiar,” Are stated once the voice finished its explanation.

“It, it symbolizes our life, in a way,” Lav said softly, trying not to let anyone overhear her. That was definitely a statement that would stick in other’s minds, given this statue was clearly striving to leave what it knew, what was holding it down. No Rich child should have been saying anything like that.

A smile played on Are’s lips as she thought about what her friend said. She could find no fault in the statement and she kind of liked the comparison. “Definitely,” she mumbled. As she stared at the statue, she noticed a tiny discoloration in a shadow. She quickly pretended to sneeze, which came very naturally to her, relaying a message to Lav through it. “Hidd’n cam’ra,” she let out in her real-sounding sneeze. “Uh-oh, I think there may be a little dust in this place. Or maybe I’m allergic to peculiar,” she said and laughed lightly. 

Lav looked skeptically at the art for a moment, looking for the camera. Once she spotted it, she nodded. It was a standard fare, though much less ubiquitous than the ceiling domes. “I’d go with the second. Let’s look at something less clangy.”

Are’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t use that word,” she snapped and walked to another piece several feet away. 

Lav grinned. Whether on a job or not, she couldn’t help but take the time to tease her friend with street slang, particularly the rude ones, “What word? You mean,” she looked slyly at her friend, “Clangy?” she asked before shouldering Are, “What about drongs?”

Are quickly covered her ears and hummed to herself, trying to keep the words from reaching her sensitive eardrums. “Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew,” she said until Lav walked away. She shuddered and glared at her friend, though she was noting that there seemed to be an increase in people in the main exhibit section.

Bugger,” Lav muttered when the two stopped outside of the main exhibit hall to stare at the sign. The rock exhibit was three days early. “Wasn’t it supposed to be here Friday?”

Are nodded, scanning over the people around them. Seeing the trio she was searching for, she nudged Lav. “Go on in,” she said loudly before whispering “And find the cameras.” She giggled and twirled her hair on one finger, attempting to seem far emptier in the head than she was. “I wanna look around here first.” She didn’t have to say the implied ‘for exits and to change strategy.’ 

Lav paused for a moment before nodding and entering the enclosed space, allowing Are to walk towards a huge painting on her own. In front of said painting were three older people, the ones that Lav had pointed out to Are.

 “Wow,” she said, awestruck enough to almost run into one of them. “This is so huge and pretty,” she said quietly. “Can you see the stars?” she asked one of them, one who held himself very tall and contemptibly. The man nodded slightly and walked away, followed by those around him. In passing by her, he handed her a small computer chip, which she immediately palmed into her locket. Everything seemed to be happening too quickly ad she couldn’t help but wonder if they’d planned that.

Feeling a bit disoriented, she turned on her heel and started into the main exhibit hall to find her friend. She was side-tracked, however, by the sight of what looked like a side deal between a guard and a plainclothes COPS, who handed he guard a small, fluorescent vial. When both glanced up and around, Are quickly moved into the exhibit to hide. This entire situation was problematic, she decided, and it was time to pull out. She had what she came for. She could try for the stone some other day, when everything hadn’t been changed. Little did she know that the situation was becoming even more problematic as she tried to look as unobtrusive as possible.

Lav had gone through the exhibit, searching for the telltale signs of hidden cameras: spaces that seemed purposely left clear, strange shadows, off-colored walls, gleaming from flashes. Getting into the security system would be easy, she could tell. The locket she wore, a twin to Are’s in appearance, was already working into it and the light shock she got every time it made it past a firewall had stopped a few minutes previous. That either meant that it was stuck or it was in, and she would bet on the latter. The physical security was a bit more of a problem. The date change of the exhibit as well as the number of plainclothes COPS told her that they had somehow been tipped off that the stone was in danger of being redistributed.

Unable to take the suspense anymore, Lav leaned against a wall, where Are had left her, and opened the locket. To any watching, it would appear she was checking the entertainment feed, but the secret coding in her optical implants showed that the locket had been stopped by a firewall. It wasn’t a particularly difficult one, because she could see a way around it simply looking at the coding, but it was one her locket was incapable of executing on its own. A new shock from the locket made her frown as she watched the code change into a repeated string of words “You’ve been caught.”

Hastily closing her locket, she looked around for her friend. Not seeing her on her level, she turned her attention upwards. It was there that she spotted that same COPS from before looking down at her, then his attention shifted and she followed it to Are, who was staring at an old painting of indigenous people with the rock. He was watching them, and not with the eyes of someone making sure they didn’t break anything or annoy too many people, but seriously watching them. She twitched slightly, and as his eyes turned back in her direction, she immediately turned her head away, well aware that her hair flying would let him know that she had seen him. She shoved herself off of the wall and calmly walked over to Are, although her heart was pounding with fear and she wanted to run to her friend.

Are was frowning at the painting, oblivious to anything, as she was actually interested in the art. There was something strange in the painting, something familiar. Double blinking took a picture of the painting so that she could look at it later. She felt someone coming near her and feared it was one of the COPS from the deal, but she didn’t move.

Lav almost reached her side, but a hand enclosed around her wrist, and a palm covered her mouth. No sound of the scuffle was heard as she was lifted off of her feet and away from her friend quickly and silently while Are stood still for a minute, listening intently to what was happening around her. She heard normal noises, people talking quietly, rustling of clothes, the wheezing of an old man, the steps of classy shoes on the faux marble tiles heading in her direction. 

Lav’s heel kicked into the shin of the man holding her, causing him to give a muted groan, but she wasn’t able to hit hard enough to make him let go of her. Keeping her mouth covered and her arms to her sides, he managed to get them through a side door and took her down an abandoned hall that seemed to be used for maintenance. He reached another door and this time she kicked against the reinforced glass paneling to keep him from gaining authorization to use it, pushing him back against the wall. Caught unawares, he dropped her and Lav fell hard, landing against the door, which shone red for unauthorized entry.

“Bugger,” she muttered under her breath, turning to confront the man, only to see empty air where he had hit the wall. Somehow, he had managed to disappear without making a sound. And worse yet, he’d left her in this part of the museum. Making quick work of the panel with her locket, she managed to shut off the alarms as well as open the side door she’d been brought through. Hurrying back to where she’d last seen Are, she checked to see that the COPS was missing from up top, leading her to conclude it had been that man who had attempted to kidnap her.

Luckily, Lav’s entire encounter had taken less than three minutes, and Are had yet to move. “Someone is watching us,” she whispered into her friend’s ear, holding her right shoulder up as if her left arm were a sling.

Are laughed softly. “Fine, you’re right. I’m bored. Can we leave?” she asked, directing her nervousness into a small, twitching hand muscle. They needed to get out of there, and fast. 

“Fine. With. Me,” Lav bit out through clenched teeth, still trying to hold her shoulder blade in place, in hopes of not having to have a sling at best, or at worst, a cast.

 

Are clutched Lav’s and helped her move quickly out of the museum, making their escape with a perfectly amused face. Lav glanced back over her shoulder only once, to see the COPS watching them from the door. He grinned and waved after them, his eyes silver and a small rock in his hand. She turned her attention back to Are quickly, and pretended she hadn’t seen it. 

 

Next part of Chapter Two: Cell

Next part of Rich: Chapter Three

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Lav had sneaked into Are’s family mansion quite easily, not that she had really needed to. All she had to do was be on good terms with the security and they usually turned a blind eye to her. Considering she had helped the current guards get out of a bad situation involving the Net security, she was pretty golden with them. So she had slipped up the stairs, and into Are’s room mostly silently. She was now trying to succeed in her game to frighten Are.

Are, unaware of her best friend’s presence, giggled as she messed with a small, animal-esque figure. It was palm-sized and very active, or it would have been, if it hadn’t currently been struggling under a heavy book. She lifted the book and the tiny robot-companion bolted across the floor of Are’s room. It quickly made its escape and left Are to roll onto her back, sighing. With nothing else to do, she closed her eyes and listened to the endless noise of her home. 

Lav crept closer and closer in her hunky combat boots, with her jeans softly sliding across the carpet. Her upper torso was hidden by a large black cloak that was following behind her, also softly sliding across the carpeted floor. She had a very scary mask on her face—or at least scary to her—of a person from their distant past, a person who had aged well enough to have a face covered in facial sagging. She knew Are’s fear of the elderly would be triggered by the incredible oldness of the face.

Are grinned as she heard her friend’s unstealthy approach. “Finally, Lav,” she said as she rolled back onto her stomach. “I thought that you’d never...get...” Are stared at the masked being standing above her with disgust and disbelief before shrieking, “What are you wearing?”

Lav snickered, pulling the grotesque mask off of her face. She gave Are a look, “It’s what old people used to look like,” she replied, dodging the pillow her friend tossed at her before plopping down onto Are’s bed beside her. “And how’d you hear me coming? I thought I was being sneaky.”

Are’s nose wrinkled in amusement as she kicked the mask underneath her bed and out of sight. “Sneaky and boots don’t mix, you know. That’s why ninjas in the movies wear slippers and not army regulated boots. And why armies all fell.” Are grinned and playfully punched Lav’s arm. 

Lav nodded in thought, “Ya know, you may be right...” she muttered with a sigh, “I guess I’ll have to wear some different shoes next time.” She poked Are quickly, jabbing her stomach.

Are doubled over with a protesting squeal. “Not the stomach,” she moaned while wrapping her arms around the assaulted area. She wiggled away from her friend, struggling to maintain her balance and get off of the bed at the same time. However, she failed and fell flat on the floor, laughing. 

Lav doubled over, laughing at her almost-athletic friend. “Wow...that’s actually got to be the worst...” her words were choked back by her laughter as she fell forward onto Are’s bed, “You’re such a doofus!”

“Don’t make fun of me,” Are wailed breathlessly from the floor. “You’ll get your own.” 

Lav finally sat back up again, once she was breathing properly. She looked at Are with a smile, “I doubt it, but whatever helps you sleep at night,” she replied. Blowing her black hair from her face she stood up, “So, let’s get started. I know I didn’t come over here simply to laugh at your doofusness, so what did you have planned for today?”

Are scratched her head. “You know that building in town? The one with the tall windows and cool structural designs?” she asked. She didn’t wait for an answer, since she knew her friend knew of the City’s only Seer-funded museum, “I was thinking about scoping it out, getting the floor plans in preparation for that artifact that’s supposed to be shown in the next couple of days.” Are smiled and stared off into the distance, dreamily. “That wonderful hunk of stone that people pay hundreds to see for just a moment.” She snapped out of her reverie a moment later. “We have to rescue it,” she demanded firmly. 

“...you want us…to save…a rock?” Lav asked incredulously. She stared at her best friend. She was used to Are’s harebrained schemes, especially the truly strange ones that they somehow always managed to pull off. But those were normally for someone’s good. This stunt was just stupid, in her mind anyway, “And just how do you save a rock anyway?”

Are pouted, crossing her arms and turning away. “It’s not just any rock,” she said grumpily. “It is a sacred stone artifact intact with memories of all of past civilizations that was once believed to give its owner incredible power through supernatural means.” Are huffed and continued to look away from Lav, refusing to go on. 

“It’s. A. Rock. But fine, I’ll help you. Don’t see why you wanna ‘save’ the rock, but I agree, we’ll save it,” Lav said, moving forward and enveloping Are in a hug.

Are sighed and mumbled under her breath, but hugged Lav back despite the “rock” comments. “Thanks, I guess,” she said uncertainly. “We’d better get moving soon. That museum’ll open pretty soon and we need to get in with the daily crowd,” Are grinned at her joke. There were rarely crowds in places that people could just look at from the Net, museums being one of them. However, art fanatics, educators and old people kept these sorts of buildings open. 

Lav stretched her arms out in front of her and glanced at Are expectantly, “Okay, if we’re going to ‘save’ the rock, how are we going to get in and out without being noticed, and how are we getting it back here?” she asked skeptically.

Are smiled widely. “I’m going as an aspiring artist ready to study from actual art. You’ll be an old dame visiting the peaceful and relaxing environment of the museum. I’ll get there at 9 and wander around, staring at the most common art works and you’ll arrive at noon, half-an-hour before the carefully guarded stone arrives. I’ve cooked up your false identification, just in case.  As for the retrieving, you’re going to carry it out in your pocket.

“There just so happens to be a conveniently unplanned emergency drill on Friday and I would like to take advantage of it while it’s available to us. This is why we need to scout the place out. We have to get an idea of the daily activities,” Are finished with a feeling that she may have been forgetting something. 

Lav stared at her, “We’re saving a tiny rock?!” she asked incredulously. She sighed, shaking her head with a small smile gracing her lips, “I’ll do it,” she replied before Are could go into a huff again, “But I just don’t really see the point in ‘saving’ a rock small enough to fit into my pocket. Also, if people go in and out of there, there’s obviously going to be security cameras. So if there’s cameras, there’re security guards who’ll catch us. So, before we put this plan into action, we need to take out the cameras, because unplanned fire drill or not, the cameras will rat us out.”

Are smiled nervously. “I happen to know a few people who might be willing to help us,” she said and coughed into her hand. She avoided her friend’s eyes by looking innocently at the room’s decor. 

Lav crossed her arms over her chest and raised a thin, arched eyebrow, her blue eyes attempting to stare her friend down, “Explain,” she demanded.

Tiny beads of sweat appeared on Are’s forehead as she continued to avoid Lav’s eyes. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” she squeaked out and shrunk slightly. 

Lav’s eyes narrowed minutely and her lips pursed, “Uh huh, spill, Are,” she demanded.

Are hesitated before wincing. She held up her arms to defend her head, even though Lav hadn’t moved offensively. Yet. “Some people are interested in the stone and they want to see if it really is magic. It’s obviously not since they’re putting it on display, but these people have been known to return favors!” she blurted quickly. “Sometimes, we need favors,” she added with a quietly purposeful voice

Lav threw Are a look, “I knew there was no way you were just trying to ‘save’ the stupid rock. So we’re stealing it to give it to people who think it’s magic, which it isn’t, in hopes that they’ll help us out later. Have I got it all summed up, or do we plan on stealing it back from them for other people as well?” she asked semi-sarcastically.

The taller girl didn’t really mind it all. She just disliked the fact that Are had tried to hide it from her. Her friend had never done that before and she really didn’t like that it was something they did now. If they were in this together, they couldn’t be hiding things from each other.

Are shifted to the side and looked away, trying to dodge the look that was thrown at her. “No one else has approached, as of yet, but it’d be a good idea to get the stone before someone else tries, at least. So, let’s go scouting now. Before someone tries to, er, tries something,” she said in a rushed breath.

Lav knew something was wrong the moment Are wouldn’t look at her. The brunette quickly turned around and scurried to a closet to grab a pack ready for scouting. However, she didn’t get a good grasp on it and it fell to the floor. Are stared at it, biting her lip and trying to keep her back to Lav.  But after Are’s backpack fell to the floor, Lav grabbed Are by the shoulder and turned her around.

“What are you hiding from me?” she asked fiercely, but barely above a whisper. “I hate it when you keep things from me. It makes me feel like we’re not a team, and I’m just one of the pleebs.”

Are chewed on her lip. She sighed and rubbed the back of her head apologetically. “They don’t want me to tell anyone else, Lav. They made me take a blood oath about it,” she said, looking into Lav’s eyes finally. “They’ll tell you in their own time, alright?” she asked. Then, under her breath, she said, “Well, that’s what they said, anyways.”

Lav frowned, scrutinizing Are soundly before letting her go, “Fine. But if either of us are hurt because you made a stupid blood oath, it goes on your conscience.”

Are laughed. “What’s a blood oath to me? I’d sooner break it than let anyone I care for get hurt as a result.” She shrugged, mostly back to her old self now that she told most of what made her nervous. “So, are you ready? Or should we take a short break to catch our breaths?” 

“There’s the Are I know,” Lav said with a smile, though the wariness didn’t dissipate. She shrugged, looking down at her boots when she replied to the second part of the question. “Whatever you think you need,” she replied.

Are gave her friend a look. “Me, a break? Since when?” With that, she picked up her pack and slipped it onto her back quietly, then paused, eyeing her friend who was staring at the black boots. “You should probably change your shoes, since we’re going into a peaceful environment. We don’t want them memorizing our faces for any reason. They might recognize our features when we return in disguise.” 

Lav sighed, and pulled out her extra pair of Air Lyte shoes from under Are’s bed. As with many other useful things for their outings, she always had a pair there to keep them from gathering any suspicion when they went out places. Air Lyte was the mandated Rich shoe, as they were expensive and had tracing bands on them to make it easy to recognize people. The most current version, which she, of course, had, actually allowed her to levitate for a few seconds and helped increase speed. She didn’t like them nearly as much as her Old Style shoes because they weren’t nearly as hardy. She had a quirky Old Style fashion sense that was only suppressed when needed to be seen as a rich kid to get what she needed. Style aside though, the tracking bands were the reason Lav preferred her other shoes when they actually did anything since the Air Lyte would have been better for any running or sneaking she needed done.

Are grinned as she watched as Lav reluctantly took off her boots. “I found a good, discrete Old Style maker that would work with you if you can find it in you to slightly alter a pair of shoes to give you the comfort of your favorite and the convenience of camouflage,” she offered while stretching her arms above her head. 

“Um, no,” Lav replied. She shook her head as she slid out of her pants and shirt to replace it with the white dress Are had already left hanging on the light hook for her, “This way I keep ‘work’ and ‘fake’ separate. With Gregor nosing around, it’s safer that way. Besides, if I didn’t, I’d go crazy.”

Are chuckled mischievously. “Like I?” she asked in a low falsetto. She held a hand up to cover her smile and blinked rapidly, looking up at the ceiling to feign innocence. 

“Yes, definitely like you,” Lav replied, now dressed appropriately for a young Rich girl. She pulled her bag onto her shoulder and hid her elderly mask farther under Are’s bed with her normal clothes, knowing if some MaId became plucky enough to come into Are’s room to clean, they wouldn’t be brave enough to touch under Are’s bed. One never knew what toys the brunette might have hidden under there.

Are pouted childishly and headed for the door. “Whatever you say, Mama Lav,” she said while digging in her pocket. 

“Ew. You are definitely not forgiven for that, Are,” Lav complained, following her comrade, her steps now silent.

 

Are grinned at her friend as she pulled out a small remote. “Sure, sure. Either way, look excited. It’s time to test out my new security,” she said and pressed a button. A small whirring sound started up, but calmed down after a couple of seconds. After that, twelve lights blinked from different, strategically placed points in the room. Both girls nodded to each other. “M’kay. I’m ready as a pea,” she stated, stuffing the remote back into her pocket.  

 
Next part of Chapter One: Cell

Next part of Rich: Chapter Two

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November 2016

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