“Mergh. ‘Et the chime.”
Kam rolled over, groaning. “Don’t wanna. You get it.”
“It’s probably fucking Rain. So you get it Ka,” Tammy ordered and rolled so her face was buried in the pillow under her head.
Kam rolled her eyes but muttered an obligatory “Yes dear,” and rolled out of bed, stumbling over down the stairs to where the communications center was mounted in the living room. She called up the communicator app and within moments Rain’s voice was coming through.
“Kamala! I’ve been trying to get you for ten minutes now!”
“Well do you know what time it is here in Cairo? I was sound asleep Rain. You know, that thing most people need to function.”
“Never mind that! I’ve done it!”
Kam stopped rubbing her eyes.
“Really?” She breathed.
Rain looked slightly crazed as she spoke into the camera. Her usually neat braid was falling part, fraying at the edges, and her eyes were even more shadowed than the last time Kam had seen her over a week ago.
“I went back over the video, and realized that the unidentified mineral that was on the table, the one we thought was just something human bodies didn’t have, it was ash.”
“Ash?” Kam cocked her head.
“Yes! Remember, the Professor-“
“Burned to death! They had his DNA in the ash!”
Rain nodded. “Exactly, so what we need-“
“Is DNA,” Kam finished. The she realized what she said and nearly fell over. “Rain, da Vinci has been dead over a millennia. There’s no DNA of his left. And he didn’t have any blood descents.”
“No, no. Kam you’re thinking too linearly again. Think about the ash, at that temperature, most of the DNA would have been destroyed. It’s clear that this program only require the tiniest amount. If Leonardo even touched something a thousand years ago, we’d be able to get enough to make it work,” Rain leaned in closer to the camera, her eyes wide. “How many paintings, how many sketches of his still exist? All we have to do is brush one, and we’d get what we need, Kam.”
“Are you suggestion that we go to the Louvre and try to get close to a da Vinci?” Kam asked, voice flat. “Have you lost your fu-“
“Kam? Are you coming back to bed or not?” Tammy called from upstairs. Kam rubbed her face.
“Yes Tammy! Be right there!” She turned back to the screen. “Rain, you’ve lost your mind. There’s no way-“
“I’m going tomorrow,” Rain interrupted her, jaw set.
“I’m going to the Louvre tomorrow. I don’t care if you are there or not, but if you aren’t you can consider your internship with me over. Goodnight Kamala.” Rain closed the feed before Kam could say anything at all.
Stunned, Kam sat back. For a moment her vision went blurry as tears of anger gathered in her eyes.
Criminal record or an internship she only had three months left on?
She’d already started applying for jobs with Egypt’s bioscience department. If Rain withdrew her internship now, she’d be forced to start over. Two years of work gone, just like that.
But if she was caught damaging a da Vinci, Kam knew she’d be lucky to find herself on a labor farm.
Sniffling and indecisive, she headed back upstairs. Tammy had rolled over and gone back to sleep if her quiet snoring was anything to go by. Kam crawled into the bed, and slowly laid back, trying not to disturb her.
“What’d Rain want?”
Clearing her throat, Kam said “Nothing. She just wanted to tell me about something she discovered and forgot about the time difference.”
Tammy chuckled quietly and rolled over so she was hugging Kamala from the side. “For a genius, your boss sure is crazy sometimes.”
Kam shrugged. “She’s a little out there. Rain’s just so driven, she doesn’t remember everyone else has a life outside of science.”
“Are you going to need to go over tomorrow?”
Kam sighed again. “I don’t know. She wants me to do something, something I’m not sure I can do.”
Tammy played with the ends of Kam’s braid, running her fingertips over it. “Is this the same project you’ve been working on for the past month, the one that you’ve been spending so much time on?”
“Seems like you’ve come a pretty long way, not to finish it now,” Tammy pointed out, gently. Her brown eyes were tired and fixed on some middle point of the closet, filled with dresses and lab coats. “You’re pretty driven yourself, Ka. Is this project something you’ve enjoyed working on?”
“Then why not see it through?”
‘Because I could be arrested,’ Kam thought to herself. “Well, it could be dangerous.”
Tammy shook with giggles. “This from the woman who thinks free form rock climbing is fun?”
“Rock climbing is fun,” Kamala defended mulishly. Tammy rolled her eyes.
“Sure, love. Anyway, I don’t see why you shouldn’t at least try to finish this with Rain. You only have another three months to work with her, and I don’t believe you’d put yourself seriously at risk.”
“Tammy,” Kam hesitated, the truth curling up and dying on her tongue. “If you’re really okay with me going tomorrow, I will.”
“Whatever makes you happy, babe,” Tammy muttered, falling back asleep.
Kam stayed awake for much longer, staring at the shadows on the ceiling.
Rain was staring at the museum in front of her, head tilted to the side.
Renovated during the French Revolution and turned into a place to house art, emptied during World War Two, redesigned during the nineteen-nineties, emptied again during World War Three and finally made a protected Terran heritage site, hundreds of thousands of people still came and went through the carefully controlled doors every day.
Humans and aliens walked around her as Rain stood in silent contemplation. In top of her walking cane was a sealed test tube and small cotton swab.
All she need was to get close to one. She could almost taste her own success.
Rain had already picked the most likely candidate to get close. The Mona Lisa would have been impossible, as it was now in an airtight container and surrounded by guards. Virgin of the Rocks was also too hard of a target, since it had the second longest viewing list. She’d chosen Saint John the Baptist. Unguarded and in a room that didn’t have any other big name paintings in it, it would be simple to just get close enough to brush the cotton swab across the painting, collecting the ancient cells she needed.
Casually Rain looked around. It was a cool autumn day in Paris and the sun shined even as the dead leaves swirled around pedestrian’s ankles. She’d messaged Kam to be here at eleven, if she wanted to keep her internship.
Rain sighed. It had been harsh to threaten her intern with that, but necessary. And if this worked, then it would mean that Kam would have her choice of jobs at the end of her tenure anyway. In terms of the risk/reward, Rain would always take a gamble over a safe bet. It was part of what had defined her career, and why she was given as much freedom as she was by the Terran Federation. Someday Kamala would be thanking Rain, when she had her dream lab and the reputation to back it up.
She spotted the other woman walking towards her, across the plaza and smiled. Rain stood where she was, waiting patiently as Rain walked over to her, shoulders up and head down.
“You came,” Rain said simply, when kamala stopped in front of her.
“I didn’t want to, believe me Rain. But it seemed like I didn’t really have any choice in the matter.
Rain shrugged and started limping towards the museum.
“Someday you’ll thank me Kam. But today we need to focus, so shelf whatever you feel about me right now and think like a scientist,” she encouraged her.
After a moment, Kam was walking beside here, shaking her head.
“I’ll never understand you, Rain.”
“That’s fine, you don’t need to. You just have to listen to me.”
Kamala let out a desperate sounding chuckle.
“And when we both get arrested?”
Rain rolled her eyes.
“We aren’t going to get arrested Kamala, now let’s go. The painting we’re looking for is Saint John the Baptist,” she smirked at Kam when she held the door open, “hopefully the painter should be obvious.”