I awoke late in the day but heard little noise from below except for the steady breathing, beating hearts and the occasional snarling snore. Iona was gone to who-knows-where and Nike was sitting in her bed, painting her nails a shimmering royal blue.
“Heya,” she said when she saw my eyes resting on her. In those two syllables, I could hear that she had some sort of odd accent.
“Hi,” I replied, trying to get my brain into order and differentiate my dreams from reality.
I pushed myself into sitting position. She was now decked out in black leather pants and those killer boots, but she hadn’t yet donned a shirt and was wearing nothing but a really pretty purple bra with shimmering lace.
“I’m Michaela,” I said as soon as I could think straight. “That’s Mouse,” I continued, shoving a thumb over my shoulder to indicate the sleeping girl behind me.
“Nike,” she replied with a friendly smile. “You came in last night, yeah?”
Finished with the polish, she screwed the lid back onto the glass bottle and tossed it onto the pile of stuff that obviously belonged to her. She was the opposite to Iona, whose belongings were lined up as precisely as her weapons had been last night.
“So,” she said, conversationally. “Matt said you might have some questions for me, but I think there’s something we need to get out of the way first.”
She picked up a small glass bottle and spritzed it around her throat. She lounged back against the wall, waiting for something. She brought her legs up and rested her hands over them to allow her nails to dry.
Yep, there was definitely an accent there. It could be Australian or New Zealand, maybe South African. As the scent of the perfume floated toward me, I caught me breath.
It was her.
“What do you want?” I scrambled back, reaching for my weapons. I couldn’t keep the accusing tone out of my voice.
“You don’t need those,” she said as my hand closed around a sheath of throwing knives. “That first night at the motel, I only meant to talk to you. When you tried to sneak up behind me, I thought you were on their side.”
“So what exactly are you?” I didn’t loosen my grip.
“I’m like you.” She fluttered her hands to make the polish dry faster.
“But we were told that the earlier experiments hadn’t worked out so well and you’re a bit older than us.” I guessed that she was in her mid-twenties. She carried herself with an air of confidence none of us had yet earned through age.
“I was the only exception. I don’t think the majority of our kind knows about me. I was the stepping stone between them and you.” She tipped her head back against the wall. “Before I came along, the New Zealand lab had a bit of a cash injection. They decided instead of trying to make a team, they were going to concentrate on one, and put all of the money into that individual. Me.”
I nodded. That made sense and it explained the accent.
“I’m not perfect, of course. There are a lot of little glitches, but I’m normal enough. They based you on me.”
“So why are you here? Surely they wouldn’t let you leave.”
Her hoot of laughter gave me a fright—and Mouse, too, who jumped in her sleep before turning over and mumbling to herself.
“Of course not. Long story short, I thought I was on the good side. I wasn’t. I got out of there.”
“Ah…” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“Yep.” Deciding that her nails were dry enough, she reached to the side of her sleeping roll and dug around in the pile of clothes, pulling a black tank top from the heap. “I’m going for a ride. Want to come?” she asked.
“Ride?” I questioned.
“Motorbike.” She grinned, waving a key ring with a single key in front of me. “I bought it with my last check and I’m still in the ‘new toy’ phase.”
“Oh, yeah, please.” I needed to do something. If I stayed here, I’d be stuck in the little office all day with Matt just across the warehouse.
“How soon can you be ready?”
I responded noncommittally but jumped from my bed. I yanked on some jeans and a plain shirt with my leather jacket over top. It took no time at all.
“Mouse,” I murmured, gently rocking her shoulder. “Mouse, can you wake up for a moment?”
She groaned but cracked open her right eye. “Whatcha doing?”
“I’m going out for a little bit with Nike. Are you okay here?”
She nodded, sleepily batted my hand away and closed her eyes again.