“You want to take a trip to South Carolina in the middle of February? For what?” asks Caelius, sitting upright on the couch and raking a hand through her hair. It gets shorter and shorter all the time; as much as Kiana tries to remind her that synthetic hair does not grow back, Caelius is notorious for doing the opposite of what anyone asks of her. Even if it’s coming from the closest person she has.
Kiana rests her elbows on the counter. “Caelius, you have to trust me on this,” she begins, not stooping so low as to beg for a yes quite yet. “This isn’t some quick bounty I’m chasing. This is a millionaire who wants to close a deal that’ll keep thousands of people from getting the treatment they need. He has a hand in every bionics company in the country and if nobody pulls him out, there’s gonna be a lot of kids who never walk, or write, or ride their bikes around the neighborhood again.”
She rolls her eyes so far back that they might get lost in her metal skull. “You make it sound so philanthropic. You want to go on a wild goose chase after a businessman? Give me a break. Kiana, the last thing I want to do is deal with rich guys again. That’s all I did when I first became a bounty hunter. It’s rotten work.”
“Then consider this a chance to get even against… I don’t know, all rich men in the cybernetics industry. Help me bring this guy down and I’ll never ask you for another big favor again.”
“Wait. Don’t you have family in South Carolina, too?” asks Caelius, joining her roommate in the kitchen. Kiana isn’t quick to answer; she just offers a single nod. Caelius’s expression suddenly lights up. “Well, don’t you wanna see them again?”
She huffs out a breath. “They don’t exactly know what I do for a living.”
Most mercenaries keep their work under the table where it belongs-- that’s nothing unusual. It’s the cover story she’s been building for five years that Kiana is worried about. The picture-perfect daughter of the Lennox family only exists in the form of fake social media posts and periodic phone calls from home.
“Hey. My parents thought I was dead until a year ago and now they have to accept that their daughter is a hunk of metal in a skinsuit,” she says, throwing an arm around Kiana’s. “It can’t be worse than that.”
Despite how Caelius only has a piece of the whole puzzle, she can’t help but grin. It’s true; Kiana has only ever known Caelius as a human brain in a bionic body-- but more importantly, a merc with a mouth who attracts trouble like moths to a flame. She can hardly imagine how it felt for her to break the news. I suppose we’re both disappointments to our parents, she thinks with a smile. At least, Cae is. And I’m about to be once they learn the truth.
Metal meets stainless steel when Kiana’s right arm reaches out and pulls open the fridge. She’ll have to invest in some gloves before she books her flight. A bionic arm is a truth and a half she’ll have to deal with, too.
“Is that the reason why you want me to come with you? Moral support?”
She shrugs Caelius’s arm from her shoulders. “Part of it, I guess. But I also need muscle.”
“An ex-cage fighter with a combat grade arm isn’t muscle enough for a guy in slacks and a button-up?”
“Ten guys in slacks and button-ups, actually. These people don’t mess around when they hire bodyguards.”
Caelius throws her head back in laughter, so much so that her roommate can’t help but do the same. “What kind of fucking insecure, egotistical, tiny-dick entrepreneur needs a posse? I bet I could body them all in one go. I have to see this for myself. I’m in.”
Of all things, she mutters once Caelius retires to her room. Of all things, that was what compelled her to agree. But a yes is a yes; and Kiana’s gonna need as much support as she can get. Not just for preventing this deal from going through, but for seeing her family for the first time in almost six years.