Steel Instinct

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Chapter 7

Kalama opens her eyes again. She just woke up from a nap. The get well soon card is still in the trash can. Kalama’s curiosity gets the best of her and she sticks her hand in, fishing out the card.

“Get well soon...” Kalama mumbles before opening the card.

The words written inside go as follows:

’Dearest Kalama Ijsbrand,

I was filled with great sorrow when I heard you had been in a car crash. From my understanding, you are still alive. If you are reading this letter, I want you to know that I desire to help you. I have resources and knowledge despite how I may seem. Linda Gray has control over all the cars, but not the motorcycles. I just so happen to be an avid motorcyclist. If you seek my help, you know where to find me.

-Your friend,

Frederik Uberti’

“Huh...for a guy who can barely speak, that’s some great lettering,” Kalama says.

“Excuse me, Ms. Ijsbrand... Do you mind putting that trash away?” a nurse asks, entering the room.

“Trash?” inquires Kalama, “Why, this may very well be the thing I’ve needed this whole time!”

“Yeah, right... Take your meds, Ms. Ijsbrand,” the nurse says, putting some medicine on the bedside table.

“I need to get out of here,” Kalama says.

“No way!” the nurse argues, “You are not well enough to leave here!”

“I’m 23! I think I can tell for myself if I am well!” Kalama argues.

“...Fine...but if anything happens to you, it is your own fault. Got it?” the nurse asks.

“I understand,” Kalama says.

“I’ll go fetch your doctor and let him know you are ready to go home,” the nurse says.

“Yes, and fetch my laptop and pistol, please! And the box of ammo!” calls Kalama.

“Just the laptop,” the nurse calls back as she leaves.

“I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR THAT PISTOL!” Kalama argues, “I DO HAVE A PERMIT!”

Silence falls. Kalama waits. The nurse returns with the doctor who is carrying a clipboard. The nurse is carrying a bag of Kalama’s belongings.

“My pistol better be in that baggy,” Kalama says.

“Please sign these release papers as a record that you will not sue us if you become severely injured as a result of leaving too soon,” the doctor says.

The doctor hands the clipboard to Kalama. Kalama accepts the clipboard and looks for the blanks to sign. Meanwhile, the nurse begins stopping the IV machines that have been keeping Kalama hydrated. The nurse then rushes to the computer to finalize all the records of this visit.

Kalama signs all the blanks and takes the bag of her belongings. She slowly stretches a leg out to get out of the bed. The doctor watches with a look of concern. Another nurse shows up and whispers in the ear of the first.

“Can she even walk?” the nurse asks.

“Uh... Maybe...?” the doctor says, shrugging his shoulders.

“Then perhaps we should get her a wheelchair to transport her out of the hospital?” the nurse suggests.

“Of course,” the doctor says, “Go fetch one.”

The first nurse leaves. Kalama slowly plants her feet on the ground. This is her first time standing up since the accident. She takes a deep breath and grips the bedside table to support herself.

“Got money for a cab?” the doctor asks.

“No,” Kalama says.

“Any family or friends?” the doctor asks.

“No... Just my little sister and she’s not even around currently...” Kalama says.

“I don’t see how you’re getting home, then,” the doctor says.

“I’ll walk,” Kalama says.

“You don’t even have health insurance,” the second nurse says.

“Yeah?” asks Kalama, “Well, it’s not mandatory anymore.”

“How are you going to afford to pay for this visit?” the doctor asks.

“...I... I don’t know...” Kalama says with a sigh, “That’s not my main concern anyhow... I must get to Mr. Uberti’s place...”

The first nurse returns with a wheel chair. The second nurse helps Kalama change into some donated clothing as all she is wearing is the hospital gown. Her old clothes are gone. She allows them to seat her in the wheelchair and the nurse wheels her out of the hospital.

“Good luck, Ms. Ijsbrand! We’ll send the hospital bill to your apartment!” the nurse calls out after Kalama gets out of the wheelchair.

Kalama slowly makes her way down the sidewalk. The other pedestrians stare at her. Her face was all over the news when she crashed. Anyone who has seen the news knows about her.

Kalama arrives at Frederik’s house about thirty excruciatingly long minutes later. She is exhausted, but she cannot give up again. She knocks on the door. Frederik opens the door and smiles.

“Hey! You made it!” Frederik says, “You look tired.”

“I am... I walked here... All the way from the hospital...” Kalama says, trying to catch her breath.

“We find Abby,” Frederik says with a confident nod.

“My laptop broke in the crash...” Kalama says, pulling the laptop out of her baggy.

Frederik waves Kalama inside. He shuts the door behind them. Frederik then prepares a seat for Kalama. He sits next to the new empty chair.

“Sit?” Frederik invites.

“Alright,” Kalama says and sits down.

The two sit in silence for a moment. Kalama closes her eyes, exhausted. Frederik stares sadly at the damaged laptop and sighs. He hits the power button anyways and, much to both of their surprise, it turns on.

“It work!” Frederik exclaims.

“Wow,” Kalama says.

“What she wan’ anyhow?” asks Frederik, curiously.

“Who...?” Kalama asks.

“Ms. Gray,” Frederik clarifies.

“She wants me to hack for her... I kind of just want to rescue Abby and be done with everything,” Kalama says.

“Too easy,” Frederik says, “Life hard.”

“...I hate to admit it, but for once, you are right,” Kalama says, looking Frederik in the eyes.

“I right?” Frederik asks, “Never before.”

“And I’m sorry...” Kalama says, “I treated you terribly...”

“No, ‘s’ okay. Ev’ry one does,” Frederik says, shaking his head.

“And you’re a great surgeon. You didn’t butcher me,” Kalama says, “When did you even learn how to do surgery?”

“...ah, ya see, ‘t’was few years back... Wen’ ta colley... Was successful for ‘while... Then, I fail. I tried somethin’ a lil’ out of ordinary. They yell at me tell me I killed my fake patien’. That I never succeed... I fail at life... So I booted... All my classmates pass an’ they be tellin’ stories ’bout me... No one like me... I no good...” Frederik says.

“...I’m sure you meant well...” Kalama says.

“Yeah...” Frederik says, “Wen’ into penmanship. I write good. I talk bad, but I write good.”

“I noticed,” Kalama says.

“Can’t do no surgery, but can write letter. I write good...” Frederik says.

“Can you lend me some parts so I can get the laptop fixed?” Kalama asks.

“Eh...” Frederik says with a shrug, “Don’ know if I have.”

Frederik gets up. He begins looking around his living space. Kalama waits. A few minutes later, Frederik returns with random spare parts.

“This good?” asks Frederik.

“Oh, uh...” Kalama says and shuffled through the parts, “I’ll make it work... Thanks.”

“What do?” Frederik asks.

“I’m going to track that car... I have the license plate number in my head...” Kalama says, quickly exchanging broken laptop pieces for the spare parts, “You keep a spare laptop monitor lying around?”

“Ye’,” Frederik says, “Don’ know why. Don’ own laptop.”

“Huh. Okay. Well, it should work with my model...” Kalama says.

“You good?” asks Frederik.

“You said you can ride a motorcycle?” Kalama asks, booting up her laptop.

“Yes. Can drive well,” says Frederik, “Two people ride.”

“...Alright, that might be trouble on the way back...” Kalama says.

“You small,” comments Frederik, “Maybe three.”

“That’s more like it!” Kalama says.

“Great!” Frederik says.

Kalama gets the software up and working again on her laptop. She begins entering the license plate number for Tacoma’s car. Ms. Gray, who also needs Tacoma, is trying to locate him. Impatiently, she awaits her henchmen to bring her the desired information.

“Well?!” asks Ms. Gray as one of her henchmen shows up.

“...we tried to contact Tacoma,” the henchman says.

“Tried?! Why were you not successful?!” Ms. Gray asks.

“He did not answer,” the henchman says, “I think he may be busy.”

“Busy? What on Earth could he be busy with?! His only task is to guard Abby!” Ms. Gray says.

“...We did find his location,” the henchman says.

“Well! That’s good, at least...” Ms. Gray says, “He should have answered, though! It’s unlike him to not report!”

“Perhaps we can get you to his location and you can check on him?” the henchman suggests.

“Good idea. Get my favorite car started up and punch in the coordinates,” Ms. Gray says, “That is, 11611X797.”

“Uhh... Perhaps a description of what the car looks like...?” the henchman suggests.

“I mean, the plaque says which one it is...” Ms. Gray says, “Fine. It’s silver with white wheels and gold hubcaps. It’s the only one with gold hubcaps.”

“On it!” the henchman says and runs off to the garage.

“Alright, my pretty babies... I’m about to go somewhere...” Ms. Gray says.

The shoulder foxes yawn sleepily. They slither off of Ms. Gray’s shoulders one at a time. Ms. Gray stands up now that the foxes are off of her shoulders. The foxes park themselves at heel with Ms. Gray.

“No, I mean, I’m going somewhere alone. I’m not taking you with me,” Ms. Gray says, gently nudging the foxes away.

The foxes look sad. They slink off and seat themselves at either side of her chair. The foxes continue staring on longingly as Ms. Gray leaves the room. Ms. Gray quickly changes into a new outfit, not liking to wear the same outfit for too long each day.

“Tacoma better not be dead...” Ms. Gray mutters, “He’s well trained in self defense...”

Ms. Gray heads out to the garage as soon as she has finished preparing. As she had hoped, her favorite car is ready to go. The garage door is open as well. She climbs into her car and hits the gas.

A little while later, at Tacoma’s hideout, there is a knock on the door. Tacoma, startled by the noise, sits up straight on the couch. He glances awkwardly at Abby who is passed out. The knocking continues so Tacoma puts his pants on and covers Abby with a blanket.

“Sorry, Abby... Must be a delivery man... I doubt Ms. Gray is here this soon,” Tacoma whispers.

Tacoma walks to the door. The knocking grows even louder. He opens the door to find Ms. Gray. She briefly looks him over before entering the house.

“Ah, so you were just ignoring the calls of my henchmen, were you?” Ms. Gray asks, “I was worried about you, Tacoma!”

“I’m sorry, mom...” Tacoma says and yawns, “I was... Um...”

“Sleeping?” Ms. Gray asks, “You look dead tired.”

“I was dealing with Abby. She wouldn’t shut up. It was all, Kalama this, Kalama that! So I took the time to shush her and get her out of the way for now,” Tacoma says.

“Well, hopefully Kalama will be here soon...” Ms. Gray says, “This is a much more controlled environment, and less issues if we make a mess...”

“How exactly are we going to manage this?” Tacoma asks.

“I’ll hide. Kalama won’t know I am here. You’ll bait her into the house and trap her. Then, once she thinks it is safe, I’ll show up and take care of the rest!” Ms. Gray says.

“And we spare Abby if Kalama complies, right?” Tacoma asks.

“Yes,” Ms. Gray says.

“I don’t suppose you brought a shirt for me...?” Tacoma asks, “I don’t think Big Sister takes kindly to shirtless men.”

“Well, fight her if you have to,” Ms. Gray says, “And yeah, I forgot to fetch a fresh shirt for you.”

The sound of an approaching motorcycle is heard. Ms. Gray quickly runs to get to her position. Tacoma redressed Abby as soon as Ms. Gray leaves the room as she was still indecently dressed. He takes a deep breath and cracks his knuckles, awaiting the door to be thrown open.

“...I can do this... I can do this...” Tacoma says to himself.

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