Vera woke in the morning with a stiff neck and a bad attitude. She'd spent the rest of the night tinkering with the dismantled camera parts in the hopes she could use some of it to remodel the Walkman.So far she'd had little luck.The most she'd managed to do was fix the display and back light by replacing the with the small rectangle of glass and the night vision bulb from the camera so she could finally see who she was listening to.She must have given up soon after that and fallen asleep. Her head lolled forward and she rubbed her eyes before glancing down at the Walkman, it's tinny music still buzzing in the ears.Dead End Justice by someone called Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Trashy and angry. Just like her.Vera could faintly hear Lori's lilting voice over the thrashing music. She pulled the headphones off and rested them around her neck and yawned as her ears started to ring.'You sleep like that pet?' Lori asked, her face scrunched with concern through her mess of tousles hair. She was hunched over in the bed, a vest drooping loosely off her shoulders.Vera didn't even have the strength to talk so she nodded instead. 'What happened last night?' Her gaze drifted to the slithers of metal, glass and screws scattered around her, 'is that-''Was.' Vera muttered. She rubbed the back of her head. It was starting to throb.'Not good then?'She shook her head.Lori glanced at the console by the door.She turned back to Vera, wound her hair into a messy bun and perched on the edge of the bed.'We've got five minutes. Spill.'
Blaine was noticably absent from Navigation that morning, instead Commander Ragnet stood in. She always looked like she wanted to kill someone.Her face was all angles and hard lines. Her jaw so sharp she could cut people with it, her eyebrows so pointy she could use them as darts.Needless to say, her and Vera got on swimmingly.Her razor thin fingers curled around Vera's shoulder for the third time in half an hour.'What is it that you're saying Miss Vera?'They'd been observing the storm's movements on the surface and trying to discern how to navigate using it. But it just wasn't possible.'The storm doesn't follow a pattern.''And why would that be a problem exactly?'Her chair squeaked as Ragnet's nails dug into the leather.'Because it keeps moving. This way and that like its,' Vera swallowed, preparing for the ridicule '...alive.' Bouts of laughter erupted from the class and Ragnet dismissed Vera with a wave of a hand. She fell silent and looked over at Lori. She was watching her intently, her brows drawn up. She smiled encouragingly from the front row. Blaine had clearly passed on how much of a nuisance they were in close proximity.'Cassie, why don't you tell us the right answer.' Ragnet suggested.Cassie turned and smiled smugly at Vera. 'My pleasure.'Vera sank in her chair. She needed to get out of there. She needed to do something productive. Like sleep.A faint blue and white message appeared at the bottom of her screen. Vera's eyes widened.'Ignore her.' It read.Vera leaned forward and whispered close to the screen.'You can't be here.''Of course I can. Its a computer.''So not what I meant, Z. If she spots you.-''She won't spot me. She's blind as a bat.'What's a bat?' Vera cocked her head.'For someone who came up with Electrical Echolocation - You ought to know.''Huh?''Nevermind - I've located the power line.' Her face brightened. Finally some good news.Where?''Lower South.''How do I get in?''Ventilation duct.'How long till I reach the trigger point?''For a regular person, twenty minutes. - Knowing you... - Twelve minutes - Tops.''Perfect.''Did you hear that Vera?' She flinched and turned her head.Ragnet loomed over her. Her broad chest and shoulders bulged out of her uniform like an overstuffed sausage. She liked to think it was padding. Unfortunately she knew it was pure muscle.Her eyes bored into hers with the same fiery hatred that Blaine had for her.'What. Are. You. Doing?' She spat.Vera turned back to the screen.Several pixelated insect like creatures were zipping back and forth, trying to crash into the small stationary ship sat at the bottom of the screen.Three ships flickered at the top of the screen, each one vanished with each consecutive hit.Two huge words appeared on screen as the last ship exploded in a shower of pixelated flames.GAME OVER.Damn right it is.Vera was the tiny ship on its last legs and Ragnet was the swarm ready to descend on her in all her 4D glory.'Aren't you a bit too old to be playing video games?'For the first time in her life Vera didn't have a comeback.She stared at the screen. The game still remained, a replay countdown decreasing second by second. But Z was gone.What have you done?Ragnets nails dug into her shoulder this time.'I suggest you and your little game leave my classroom immediately.' She hissed. Vera barely had time to blink before Ragnet hauled her out of her chair and shoved her toward the door.She hit for floor hard, her palms scraping against the floor's sharp ridges, her bones slamming against its corrugated metal.She gasped in pain and hastily picked herself up. Her knee twinged with the movement but she refused to limp away. She wouldn't give Ragnet the satisfaction.Ragnet tossed her hoodie on the floor by her feet, her face beaming with pleasure before her lips curled into a snarl.Vera dipped down to retrieve it and shrugged it on over her vest, leaving it unzipped. Ragnet stared at her with eyes of stone.'Now get out.' Ragnet barked.Vera glanced one last time at Lori. Her eyes were wide and glistening, her mouth hanging slack, her body twisted like she was ready to run to her.Vera smiled encouragingly, embarrassment flaring in her cheeks, before stepping back with a sigh and trudging out into a different world of possibility.
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