Grace’s heart raced as she looked at the pulse gun. The metarm dove under the skin of her right forearm, presumably anchored to her bones. Another gleaming piece of metal encircled her wrist and provided a pivot for aiming. She remembered her revulsion to Raj’s mechflesh hand, but looking at her own implant was somehow different. She couldn’t feel the metarm as a foreign object: it was more like an image of a weapon projected onto her body.

Raj had obviously cherished it: the metarm was smooth to the touch and showed no sign of neglect, just honest wear. It was disconcerting to have an implant, but comforting to have a weapon again. As she practiced aiming the gun, she recalled many sessions of target practice with her father. They hadn’t the time since her training at Red Fox. She wondered if she’d be as fast with this weapon as she had been with Ronnie.

She named the pulse gun Daddy, for luck.

About an hour into her practice, her ptenda lit up with the briefest of messages. The one she was waiting for.

“She’s home,” Grace said, reading Martin’s message aloud.

“What about Raj?” Tim asked.

“Martin’s going to scoop up Raj at ITB,” she said. “Assuming they haven’t moved Raj since Martin got the room number. I’m going to stay nearby and cover his escape. Then I’ll pay a visit to Maud—”

The expression on Tim’s face made her stop short. She marveled that she’d recognize human feelings playing out on a dog’s face.

“Don’t go, Grace,” he said in his usual voice, yet it sounded more like pleading. “Let Martin extract Raj and then we can lay low.”

“No way, doggy. Maud’s illegal activities at ITB have to be exposed. Look what they did to Raj. And what happened to Rendilon Gobi. Flora.” Grace’s voice cracked. “Look what they did to me,” she said, pointing at the medical pod.

“You should wait until Raj is back,” Tim said, but his head drooped.

“I’m going,” she said firmly.

Grace headed out of the loft, closing the door and hoping the PodPooch stayed behind, as agreed. Tim had told her that only Raj’s brothers knew about the loft, so he would be safe.

The night air refreshed her as she left the building. She’d been in one medical pod or another for too long. The loft was comfortable, but it lacked windows. Her legs felt stiff. She decided to run toward ITB. After her experience at the blind bang, Grace remained on alert as she passed people and movers on the street.

Halfway there, she realized what she was wearing. Orange and red? They screamed target. She located a clothing shop with her ptenda and purchased a simple black mimic. Her new clothes partially concealed Daddy under a long sleeve.

Corey OstmanPort Casper