The crew gathers everyone together in the hangar lounge. Hello, Bettina says cheerfully to the other passengers. They smile back at her. We have a full plane today, the flight attendant announces. Riley chartered the flight, so he gets choice of fore or aft. You working? Riley asks the corporate team. A tall woman shakes her head no. Good, this is a pleasure cruise for us. Were you able to get the movie? Simon asks him. Of course. What did you get? Bettina asks. Free Solo. It’s a Nat Geo documentary about the guy who free climbed El Cap in Yosemite. The film crew was so conflicted and biting their nails the whole time. One slip and he’s dead. Did he make it? Bettina asks. Yes. Simon says. I’m in, Bettina says. Bettina, this is Riley. He’s a friend. He created Nvidious. It’s the biggest multiplayer game on the market. Hi, she says, offering him her hand. California has Silicon Valley; Oregon has Silicon Forest, of which Portland is the hub, Simon explains. It’s a happening town. Who do you work for? Simon asks the tall woman who seems to be the leader of the corporate group. Cube, she responds. Do you know who they are? He asks Riley. I’ve heard about them, Riley replies. What have you heard? You guys are doing a mobile banking app for employers. The team leader nods. The premise is daily pay. Wage workers are more likely to show up if they get paid immediately after their shift. So I work my eight hours, Simon says. Gross $120. How much do I get deposited in my account? $80. The rest is for withholdings, and a little something for the end of the week. What are you taking? Tim asks. Our fee is in line with what most credit cards charge. And is paid for by the employer. That is such a good idea, Bettina enthuses. They smile at her. What are you up to these days, Riley? The woman asks. I’m just here to give Simon a ride. Payback for getting me into the show.
I forgot to stow my pocketknife. Tim whispers to Lana. She shrugs. My gun trumps your knife if we get wanded, she whispers back. Tim chuckles and grins at Lana. How are you doing, Lana? He asks her. She shrugs. I’m sleeping good. What’s in the guitar case? One of the Silicon Forest guys asks her with a grin. Do you play? She replies. The man shakes his head no.
That guitar is not going in the hold, Simon declares, grinning at her. You’ve got to play for us. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Bettina sing. Bettina smiles at him. Bossman said that your version of Wonderwall was the most haunting song he’d ever heard. Tim tells Lana. You sang it for him? Simon protests. Lana looks down. Bettina grins and nods with her eyebrows raised. She would only play it through for us, he tells the others.
How do you fit in? One of the Silicon Forest guys asks Tim, looking at his worn Carhartt jacket. I’m overwatch, Tim says. What did you think of American Sniper? Simon asks Tim. I was moved to tears by the ending, Tim admits. Me too, Simon agrees. What do you do for a living? I work in a warehouse and drive a forklift, Tim deadpans. First time in a private jet? Tim shakes his head no. So you’re here in the capacity of a bodyguard, the Silicon Forest woman says. I’m not on anybody’s clock, Tim responds. Tim and I have worked together before, Lana tells the others. For the Secret Service, Bettina announces. Lana looks at Bettina and gives her a tiny head shake. Everyone else exchanges glances.
Well, Bettina? Simon asks her when the movie is finished. Words fail me. She says. And music begins where words end, so I’m going to go put on my headphones. Great find, Riley, she says as she touches his arm. He grins at her. Would you have been able to film that? I’ve never been climbing; I’m a flatlander, Simon. I meant the moral dilemma the filmmakers talk about. Let me get back to you on that, Simon. Bettina leaves and goes back to her seat next to Lana. And puts on her wireless headphones. Share? She asks Lana, who nods and presses the button on her set of Wearhaus Arcs.
What should we watch next? Simon asks Tim. Have you seen Predators? It’s like Predator, the Arnold movie, but reimagined offworld. Sounds cool, Riley says. And soon the plane is filled with the sound of gunfire and people dying horribly.
Half an hour later, one of the Silicon Forest guys walks back to use the lavatory. Bettina points at him, as she and Lana sing “Maybe one day I can tell you – what you mean to me. Maybe one day I can show you – you mean the most to me”. The man stares at them with a shocked expression on his face, and Bettina grins at him. He goes on his way, turning around to look behind him as he walks through the guys watching the shoot um up movie. You make a better door than a window, Tim tells him.
When the movie is over, Simon tells Riley and Tim, I’ve got an idea for a sequel. They should cast Lana as herself. The guys laugh. Let’s do a GoFundMe page. But Jax needs to be her costar, Simon says, and they have to work together to defeat the Predators. Now that is genius, Riley enthuses. Let’s go pitch her. Leave me out of this, Tim says.
Riley and Simon go and see Lana napping on Bettina’s shoulder. She makes a turnaround motion for them to leave.
Come on, Lana, quit studying and play for us. Riley says five hours into the flight. Sing “what you mean to me” - the one you two were singing when I walked by, the Silicon Forest guy interjects. Sure, but we need an angry male vocalist. Simon waves his hands frantically. Bettina shakes her head no. We’re going to dedicate the song to you, Simon. Oh, he says pleased. Let Riley borrow your Arcs so he can synch with us. I can’t sing, Riley protests. Can you rap angry? Bettina asks. What?!? It’s a rap song. Simon scoffs. Rap is short for crap. Everybody laughs. Headphones for Riley, Simon. Simon gets up and digs in his carry on and hands them to Riley. Laptop, so we can have lyrics to read. Slow down, Riley protests. Lemme at least listen once first, so I know how it goes. Bettina points at Simon as she sings the end of the chorus. It’s so produced, Lana says, it’s going to be tricky doing the harmony. We need to do this for Simon, Bettina tells her. You lead then, Lana tells her, and I’ll do the harmony. Those were some serious rhymes. I can do this, Riley says. Hold up, I’m going to get the others, the Silicon Forest guy says. Simon hands Bettina his laptop after he’s booted it up. The wallpaper is a group picture of Lana, Jax, Bettina, and Simon in the desert. Bettina finds the lyrics.
Everyone is silent after the girls finish singing the chorus. That was incredible, Tim says. Simon nods. It worked acapella. Riley<pause>I never knew you had it in you. That was the first time you’ve heard that song? The Silicon Forest woman asks him skeptically. Hand to God, Riley says. Lana rubs Riley’s shoulder briefly, then gets up from the couch and goes back to her seat.
What was that song? A Silicon Forest guy asks. Bettina rotates the laptop so everyone can see. Ivan B. One Day. Why isn’t he blowing up?
Whatever Rolf is paying you, I’ll double it, Riley tells her as he takes up the seat beside her five minutes later. That’s a generous offer, Riley, thank you. Lana replies.
I’m serious. I’d like to hire you. Do you have time for a meeting while you’re in town? Lana looks down at her notes. Is it time sensitive? I’d like the weekend off to be with my friends. Actually, I don’t have anything substantive to talk about, but I want it making the corporate grapevine that I’ve hired you to look for Judases.
Lana closes her eyes and sighs. Riley, take a sword to the enemy within first, she says softly. I would if I knew who they were, he replies. If I had to guess, it would be one of three: drifting, overcaution, or worry. More like all three, he agrees quickly. How do I take the sword to them? My undergraduate degree is in psychology and I believe in free will. You get to choose. Please let me study now. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
Lana goes back to transcribing Deluca’s notes as Riley watches her work. You have beautiful penmanship, he tells her a minute later. Thank you, she replies, not looking up. I’m not a writer; I like to talk things out, he says after a minute. The act of writing puts a space between you and the problem, Lana tells him, and then closes her notebook, and looks over at him. What do you want to talk about, Riley?
How much does Rolf pay you? Eighty dollars an hour; he’s a legacy client. New clients pay me two hundred ten dollars an hour, plus expenses, Lana tells him. How booked are you? She sighs. It’s mostly just consults now. Prospects are willing to pay me my hourly to listen to their problems, and then tell their friends that they’ve hired me. So you go to them? If they’re elderly, I will. But usually we meet at a Denny’s for a cup of coffee. And I tell them upfront that I’m expecting a call from my partner, and we’ll go over my work agreement while we wait. It’s five pages long. If they won’t sign, then I walk. Some people just won’t sign. My partner will call me fifteen minutes in, and that gives me an excuse to get out of there if I don’t want to handle the case. Who is your partner? Rolf. Cool. What cases won’t you handle? I steer clear of matters of the heart. Riley looks at her. What about someone like me? I’m getting serious with my girlfriend; maybe that’s why I was able to relate to that song so much. I’d like an FBI quality background check done on her. Lana winces. What? That’s something you should do yourself. Just ask her the questions you want answered, Riley. I’ve lost my objectivity, he responds. Lana studies him. One thing you can do, if you haven’t done it already, is get a credit report from her. If she refuses, that’s a red flag.
Riley grins at her. What would I find if I had a credit check done on you? Not much. I’m a renter, Lana says, so no mortgage. Purple is paid for, just got a new clutch. And I only have one charge card, my American Express, which I pay every month. I don’t have any debt, Riley. No school loans? My father paid for my college; and NOPD reimbursed me for police academy when I was hired. What about law school? I’m paying for that out of pocket. What about savings? I’ve always lived on 70% of what I make. What do you do with the other 30%? I tithe 10% to my local church. And I put the rest away in my rainy day fund, which just took a major hit. My lawyer cost $700/hour this last go around, and Riley, she was worth every penny. Riley laughs. I like you, Lana. Thank you. Want a seat on my board of directors? No thank you. May I show you something? He nods. She hands him Deluca’s notes. These are from my friend Deluca. He gives her a puzzled look. The handsome black man with the goatee who escorted me when I turned myself in to the police. He nods. He’d be a really good director. Next time you’re in town, I could introduce you. Got a card? Lana pulls one out of her phone case and hands it to him. Thanks. He gets up and walks away.
How was the trip? You’ll never guess who we flew back with. Simon Barjona, Riley MacIntyre, Bettina Andrews, and Lana Radley. What was she like? I didn’t think she was that hot until she sang. Who? Lana Radley. She went from an eight to a nine and a half. Did you get a chance to talk to her? A little bit. She was copying notes and reading up on case law. She told Hermes that law school was a lot of fun if you weren’t planning to be a lawyer. She and Bettina sang acapella karaoke with Riley, and it was really something. What did you think of Bettina? She likes Simon.