Lyla had taken off out the door faster than Kara had expected. When she had said, “Come on, I’ll show you to him,” Kara had expected her to mean as soon as she got done doing what she needed to do; instead of the immediately that Lyla had anticipated it to mean.
It took a shocked Kara a few seconds to get out the door, surprised by the alacrity in Lyla’s legs. “Don’t you need to lock up?” she called out. Lyla shook her head.
“Nah, we don’t have anything worth stealing, and most people here know each other, except for those from the Influx,” Lyla explained. Kara shot her a look, but eventually shrugged and just shut the door.
“What’s the rush though? I’m in no hurry,” Kara said. “I’ve been looking for him for years, another few hours isn’t going to hurt.”
“He’s Alenkas’ representative with NuVO at the moment, mostly because he’s the one with the IDM,” Lyla stated. Although she did slow down from a run to a walk, thankfully letting Kara keep up much easier. Digitigrade legs were surprisingly difficult to run on, she thought to herself.
“So he’s usually pretty busy. What, is there a waiting list or something?” Kara joked. Lyla chuckled before shaking her head.
“Nah, no waiting list, just that…well, Simon never had too many friends. I think I was the only one he had out in the outside world before Alenkas. It’s nice to hear he wasn’t completely alone,” Lyla said.
“Really? He was a loner, but he didn’t seem that anti-social to me. I mean, me and Revan managed to get him to open up to us long enough to create a prototype,” Kara murmured. Lyla’s ears ticked back.
Her mind went wild. Was Kara one of the five that originally created the possibility for the Alenkas system to exist at all? Everyone at NuVO knew of the original story; a group of five friends had come together and tried to create a world of true virtual reality. It got prototyped before it got picked up by NuVO, but all five names were erased by the hundreds that came afterwards.
And did that mean that Simon was also one of the original five? Revan…the name sounded familiar to her, but for the life of her she couldn’t place it. If it was someone that she had worked with then that would explain it; it’d been a long time since she worked with those people and even then she never really bothered to pay attention to the other teams unless they affected her own.
As Lyla wasn’t sure, and had no way of checking asides from simply asking -which by Kara’s tone meant that it was one of those topics that had a giant neon sign saying ‘do. not. touch!’- so instead the red fox simply let it drop.
The Tree wasn’t too far from where they were. Lyla thought about taking the shortcuts, but instead took a bit more of a roundabout way. She wasn’t truly being honest about why she wanted to get Kara to Simon earlier; she still remembered the various conversations that she’d had earlier in the day, and one of the reasons she was so quick to shrug off all morals and fuck Kara.
“We have a person that got kidnapped in the middle of the day. Finish what you’re doing, we’re starting another Hunt.”
“Lyla, have you seen Mia? I haven’t seen her for a few days…”
“Alex seems to have dropped from the face of the earth. You know where he is?”
She hoped that the first conversation didn’t relate to the second or third. She had gotten Lucas and Aiden to help look for the other two Alenkans, while Simon and her coordinated for the missing person. Already word had been spread around the Alenkans, but they weren’t sure if they should keep it hushed up or let the news explode.
Lyla was all for letting it explode. They had hundreds, if not thousands of people now with all the Influxxers. Let them search too, they could crawl over the entirety of Alenkas in a day or two. Simon appreciated the speed, but then said the possible outcomes; what if the kidnapper is one of the people asked to search? He’d do everything he could to make sure they couldn’t be found.
She had to admit the squirrel had a point when he’d told her. She had said she wanted to get some air; instead she went and got some groceries, giving her more than enough time to think of something else.
A mixture of both; and as soon as she’d had the brainwave she wanted to get the idea over to Simon. They’d take a few of the Influxxers, increase the general ‘Alenkan’ population when it comes to searching.
Of course Simon had also been worried about something else, a small girl that had managed to get into the system. Lyla had to admit that having a child in Alenkas was just asking for trouble, and she hadn’t even met the girl, but she was constantly on Simon’s and Sam’s minds.
It was a mixture of brewing trouble and not once did Lyla think that anything good would come out from it. All of this had come on at once, and Lyla was slowly reverting back to her programmer persona; a hard-ass who wanted results, regardless of time or challenge.
Her team hadn’t liked her, but had to admit that if they needed help she’d be right there in the code with them. Something simple though would cause her to glare, and it often made the targets wonder if they shouldn’t be switching teams. Most of the other teams were fairly relaxed, but not hers.
Although they did have one of the toughest jobs in the system, and they not only got it done but got it done faster than scheduled, even with the hundreds of bugs that popped up from time to time -touch was a bit more sensitive than any of the other senses- they had shorted the critical path by nearly two months.
As soon as she’d got into Alenkas though, her mind was thrown for a few dozen loops. The Heats, the various taboos that slowly became normal, meeting the same people in the same situation…it made her rethink a lot. She preferred that new person, that new Alenkan, over the life that she’d been leaving behind.
“Lyla? You look deep in thought. What’s all going on?” Kara asked from behind her. The red fox weighed it in her mind. Should she tell, or should she not? On the one hand, she doubted that Kara was the kidnapper, on the other there was no guarantee that she wasn’t on his side. But there were seven, if not eight billion people in the world, and thousands of Influxxers. The chance that one knew this particular guy, and went and crashed into her was practically null and void.
Lyla stared up at the sky. She still wasn’t sure though. She’d heard of stranger coincidences. Finally…she just gave up. ‘Fuck it. Let the problems lay where they land,’ she thought. “There’s been…a few situations over the last couple of hours that I’ve been made privy too.”
“Anything I can help with?”
‘More than you know,’ Lyla thought. “Kind of you to offer. Not so sure you want to though; we’re tracking a missing person that we don’t know, and two Alenkans, two of the testers, have also gone missing.”
Kara’s attention snapped to the red fox, but not in a shocked way of ‘oh god did they discover me’, but rather in a ‘oh god what happened and how can I help’ way. “Any possible links, or anything that says these are the works of a serial guy?”
“None. Two we don’t know for certain, one we know was taken. We’re working on all three. One of the reasons I was so stressed out earlier. Sorry about that…” Lyla explained.
“Well, I know someone in the real world who works as a police officer. If you’d like I can get him in here, and have him help you guys search and arrest,” Kara offered.
“No thanks, Simon’s already said no to that. Too many cross-laws, and Alenkas isn’t considered an actual city, so nothing in here that’s done actually sticks. I think that people could even get away with murder if they realized how. Besides ours, I mean.”
Kara growled under her breath, and Lyla smirked. She’d made the right decision for once. Now where was the Tree…
It took them only a few minutes of small talk, mostly relating to the missing persons, before they reached the Tree. It seemed empty, as it almost always did. Lyla walked right on in, and after a moment Kara entered too. “The library? I’ve already checked here with some others, and we didn’t find anyone,” Kara said.
“They were probably out. Sometimes that happens, but most of the time unless there’s an emergency there’s always one of the three around,” Lyla answered without turning around. She led the german shepherd up a flight of stairs, ignoring the dozens of books on the sides that had no title or even much of a cover.
“Simon, Sam, Cal, anybody here?” Lyla called as soon as she reached a small hallway. At the end was the same iron-barred door that looked more like a jail cell door than anything else. Kara expected the same result as last time; absolutely no answers.
She was shocked. “Yeah, door’s unlocked. Come on in Lyla,” a feminine voice called out. Lyla turned and shrugged, smiling lightly in a ‘told you so’ way. She grabbed the door and opened it with a small creak, letting the shepherd lead the rest of the way.
Two cats, one orange and one white, sitting a giant computer…device. The white cat was the one that obviously called out, wearing some shorts and a small tank top. The orange tabby, an obvious male, didn’t so much as give them much of a glance as they entered, despite their nudity.
But no squirrel. ‘Damn,’ Kara thought, ‘he must be out again. Come on…’ she prayed with a roll of her eyes. “Any progress so far?” Lyla asked as she entered behind her. The white cat gave a small glance before shaking her head.
“No, not yet. NuVO’s still refusing to give us full access, so the most we have are login and logout points. But it’s been several hours by now, surely they would’ve logged out if they could. As for the other two, no idea,” the white cat said. “Hi, I’m Sam. Who are you?” she asked kindly as she took in Kara’s visage.
“I’m Kara. I’m looking for Simon, if he’s here?” she asked lightly.
Sam shrugged, “Sorry. He’s been out for a while, I think he took to the ground to see if he couldn’t find our missing persons. If you have a message I’ll give it to him when he gets back…?”
“No, no, that’s alright. Thank you though,” Kara said.
“Aw, is Sam jealous that Simon has more girls into him?” the orange tabby said, grinning over his monitor to the white cat.
“No,” Sam glared instantly. “We’ve been in Alenkas too long for that to happen. Are you, Cal?” she teased right back. The orange tabby, apparently Cal, blushed before sputtering a denial. Lyla rolled her eyes.
“Right, well I’m going to go to ground too. See if we can’t find anyone. Let us know what’s up. I have Lucas and Aiden looking out for Alex,” Lyla said.
Sam turned suddenly, “Oh right! We found him, he was up in Dave’s tower trying to convince the jay to leave and get air reconnaissance. Don’t know how well it went but I’m suspecting not well considering I’ve yet to see him leave.”
Lyla gave a sigh of relief. “That’s one. That’s…that’s good. Now if only the others would be so easy. I’ll be back. Tell Simon I came up with something whenever he gets back,” she said, leaving Kara standing there slightly awkward.
“Hi Kara, I’m Cal. We don’t get many visitors this way often,” the orange tabby said before they were all interrupted by a high-pitched voice calling out, way in the back, “Told you three I could do it again without a problem!”
Cal sighed while Sam chuckled darkly. “That’s no way to treat a kid,” she told him. “And it appears you get to meet one of our other constant visitors,” Sam told Kara. “We’re in here!” she called back.