Amanda Simmons didn’t leave Jacobs Court after lunch the day she freed Grayson Helms from his scaffold. The Red Queen was too excited about the next morning’s Sector Six dispersal to account for which of her executives returned to Carolina EnTech for afternoon meetings anyhow.
Amanda had moved to North Carolina for all the right reasons. The mild climate (the Pacific Northwest was dreary even for her tastes). College sports, especially basketball. Low taxes, thanks to the conservatives in office. Affordable real estate. Warm people. Good Christians with strong family values and dedicated support for private schools, free enterprise, and small government. So trusting. She could probably stay the rest of her life.
She crept into the triklinion, the red python birthmark warming the back of her neck. Grayson was one of the early donors, if not the first, so they kept his bed on the third subfloor. The dining room was quiet, except for the buzzing machines, and sterile. Amanda punched a few buttons to override the system and silence the alarms. She couldn’t take any chances. There were enough lab assistants and sentries to cause a stir, even though many of them weren’t on the feed.
Grayson lay naked and prostrate on the scaffold, his cock shriveled to a useless nub. Amanda found the human body repulsive and tossed a flimsy gown over him so she didn’t have to see any more than she needed.
When she unscrewed the first conduit, the fitting hissed. The connections hadn’t been lubricated for a while. Grayson didn’t move his eyeless totem-pole face, but Amanda knew life existed somewhere inside. Had to. The drainers couldn’t survive without fresh blood.
They had the drug to thank for that.
After she finished, Amanda led Grayson down the platform. He could barely walk. The engineers supplied enough nutrients (peripheral neuropathy was an ongoing concern) but only minimal exercise between feedings. She held his hand as they climbed the escape stairs and left the apartment building in darkness. His palms were cold and clammy.
Chances were Braudie Meyer would take the blame for the breach. The Red Queen hated him and the rest of her executives. They asked too many questions. Amanda knew when to keep her mouth shut.
Maybe the Red Queen would point a crooked finger at another flunky. What did it matter? Some random employee would be held accountable. An engineer who’d worked on the Skull Project with Grayson many moons ago, perhaps. Amanda didn’t care. All she wanted was a break down in the system. A failure. She’d been making her way through clinical laboratories for years trying to latch onto the right program. Never used the same name or background. Identities and résumés simple enough to falsify. Corporate bigwigs easy to manipulate.
Once she snatched control of EnTech from the Red Queen, then she’d be free to negotiate the way she wanted. The Red Queen had made the mistake of thinking the power resided in the drug. The truth was that domestic and foreign defense contractors would pay stellar prices for advances in biological weaponry. Not to mention how much Sector Six would fetch on the black market. There were all kinds of desperate militants and underground terrorists sick enough to launch an invasion.
Amanda knew the power was in the money, but one step at a time.
First Grayson Helms.
What would happen after that? Well, she’d just have to wait and see, wouldn’t she?