“How are you feeling?” Brisbane asked. His fingers flipped over tiny keys as his eyes bounced among the screens in front of him back at their home on the coast.
“Insert something witty here,” she responded while stepping into the room, rubbing her sore neck with a fluffy towel. Wet hairs still danced around her neck.
Brisbane exerted a sound of sympathy, “Too sick to be funny?”
“I feel like something died inside me. It might have been my integrity.”
He smiled, “Well I think you entertained some very rich people if that helps.”
She groaned, “I think seeing our bank account would help more.” She tottered into a soft leather computer chair next to him.
“Maybe later,” he responded. His eyes were distant, raking through hundreds of downloaded files.
Ms. Donovan reached beneath his chair and started drinking his water. As she watched the screens in front of them different projects jumped to the forefront.
“Enhanced infantry? Boring. Isn’t that basically the premise behind Captain America?” she asked.
“You bet it is,” Brisbane answered, his fingers still communicating faster than his spoken words. The computer seemed to respond to him in kind, like a dog yielding under the sturdy hand of its master.
“What’s that one?” she pointed.
“Something from the same department. About enhanced voice detection for mobile translators.”
“Star Trek did it first!” she shouted at the screen, following with a pain-induced grimace.
“Why don’t you go to bed?” he asked robotically.
“Because I’ll be asleep when you concoct a new conspiracy theory and then you'll wake me up anyway. Obviously.”
“There’s rocky road in the fridge,” he offered.
“I will return,” she exited and the music came back.
Brisbane loved to listen to Miles Davis when exploring stolen material. He’d started on Charlie Parker, a recommendation from a very knowledgeable and flexible young woman he had met in Berlin. But there was something about Miles; he always came back to him.
Ms. Donovan returned, pint of ice cream in hand, and the music began to fade out, “Continue music.” At her command the computer raised the volume back to the soft level at which Brisbane had set it.
“I love you for getting this,” she muttered between bites.
“You like it. That’s why I get it,” he said, his attention still on the screens.
“I don’t understand how you don’t like it! It has chocolate, it has marshmallows…” she joked.
“But you know I don’t like nuts,” he interrupted.
“Yeah, besides me. At any rate they are only part of the glory that is this dessert,” she took another bite.
“When you eat it for dinner it’s not dessert,” he smiled.
“I had dinner. I just happened to not take it with me.”
One by one the code on each project in a series that previously read Confidential flipped over, now reading Accepted. Ms. Donovan gestured with a spoon, her mouth still full, “Did you do that?”
“You bet I did,” he answered.
“Nice job,” and for a few precious seconds she looked back down at the ice cream. When she looked up again it was at Brisbane, whose eyes had widened to the size of marbles.
“What’s the Darwin Project?” she asked, gesturing with the spoon again.
As quickly as before, Brisbane’s fingers flashed over the keyboard and the image was gone.
“Hey! Come on, you know I’m going to get it out of you. What was it?” her brow furrowed.
“I thought it was something good but it wasn’t. It was just something about experimenting with rats to see if they would kill each other off in a survival situation, revealing the strongest one. You know where they would have to fight each other for food or something. It didn’t have any applications to further research.”
“But why would they even do that? Darwin’s theories have been proven haven’t they?” she was still staring at him, incredulous.
He looked directly at her, “I don’t know. I don’t know that much about Darwin. I never really studied him beyond the stuff everyone knows.”
He turned back to the keyboard.
“Wait,” she said, “go back to it. There might be something there. That sounds like a worthless experiment. Maybe it’s a decoy file to hide a bigger project.”
He rolled his eyes, “Listen, I know you wouldn’t understand this. But I have a small window in which to search through these files before they decay and I can’t use them anymore. I’m not going to waste my time reading through a 50 page document at your whim. This is my business, and I’m allowing you to tag along. But just because you’re filthy rich doesn’t mean you get to boss me around.”
“Hey, I take care of myself. I don’t need your help, Bris. I’m the one tolerating you! If you want to ignore something that might be huge instead of listen to me that’s your problem,” she dropped the spoon in the ice cream bucket and closed it up before standing to leave.
“As if you would know the difference between something important and something unimportant,” he said, shaking his head.
She turned around, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t see a lot of people besides me coming to your aid, Kate. In fact, I don’t know anyone who even likes being around you except for me,” he glared at her.
She wrapped a hand around the doorknob tightly, “Don’t call me that,” and slammed it shut.
He raised the shaking hand he’d hidden behind his thigh and ran it through his hair, “Computer, deadbolt the doors for the next six hours. Take no calls at the front of the house. And reopen the Darwin Project.”