"Hiding from responsibility," Vera replied with a grin. She was wearing her pajamas and had set up camp underneath several blankets. "Everyone copes with finals week differently." She held up a book - not a textbook, for a change. "This is my coping mechanism. Care to join me, dear?"
Quorra laughed in response. “Of course!” She let go of the blanket that served as the fort’s entrance and straightened, shrugging the backpack off her shoulders and dropping it on the floor next to the dresser. It made a loud thud—overstuffed with books, as always. She untied her shoes and set them down next to the backpack, and made sure to pick one of the three books out of it before finally joining Vera.
The fort was adorable, albeit small, though big as a dorm room could allow. Quorra settled in next to her, lying on her back with a pleased sigh. “I think I like your coping mechanism.” She hugged her own book to her chest, as if it were a teddy bear. It might as well have been.
She turned and tilted her head, focusing on the book in Vera’s hands with avid interest. “Whatcha reading?”
Vera laughed and shuffled to the side to make space for Quorra, holding up her book – a biography of Cleopatra – with a smile. “Studying up, for when I form my own empire and set myself up as the god-queen of it.” The words were only half a joke, since Vera had put some serious thought into the feasibility of it.
She looked down at her friend with a fond smile. “What about you? Are you here because you didn’t want to study?”
"Oh! That’s… well that’s intense," Quorra replied with a hesitant chuckle. That was the thing about Vera, though… her sarcasm always bordered on actual planning. Quorra had either learned how to tell the difference, or decided to just smile and nod. Regardless, it just heightened her intrigue toward the older woman, having her pay visits to her room like this, only to find her half transformed into a blanket fort.
"Are you kidding? I just had my Politics final. I don’t want to study again for as long as I live!" She opened the book over her head and brought it down to rest on her face, as her arms flopped limply at her sides, an image of exhaustion.
"And before you say it, yesh-, I’m reading it again," she mumbled proudly from beneath the book: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a particularly worn copy at that. She exhaled tiredly. “Ugh, I just want to lay here forever. Think the other professors would notice I was gone?”
Vera only gave her a wry smirk in return. Truth be told, she didn’t know if she was joking or serious; she was always of two minds about it. The burning desire to prove herself to the world tended to war with her own selfishness, to no productive ends.
"Ah, politics." She chuckled and ruffled Quorra’s hair. "I don’t care what you read, dearest. It’s your choice, after all."
Vera raised an eyebrow and glanced at the window. It was a dull, rainy day, and going outside was going to be a chore later. "Honestly, knowing you, the professors will assume you’re reading somewhere, and as long as you don’t have any more tests, who actually gives a fuck?”
Vira sighed and knelt, wrapping one arm around his chest and one under his legs as she stood. He was pressed close to her, but she certainly wasn’t making it comfortable for him as she walked, the longer, lose cloak barely hiding their circuits. She didn’t seem too phased by the added weight - in fact, for all she reacted, she might’ve been on a walk by herself.
"You’re ησт going to walk back ιη тнιѕ state," she snapped shortly. "You fσσƖιѕн beta. You thought you could take on a gang of sentries αƖσηє?" She rolled her eyes. "What did I тєαcн you all?"
"D0n’T Go 0uT aLon3…." he said, the sulk evident in his distorted voice. He let himself be carried, even though he wished that he could be walking proudly, the energy of the sentries dripping off his claws, staining the outlands as he made his way back to the Den.
"bUt tHeY wERe t00 c1osE… I w4nt3d to f33l tHeiR c0d3 sPliT unDeR mY clAwS… h3Ar ThEiR $cR34Mssss…."
Vira sighed and adjusted her grip on the infected in her arms. “Have I ever accepted єxcυѕєѕ?” She glared at him for a moment. “Rємємєя what нαρρєηєɗ to Jαмeѕ?”
Vira had happened to him, in the end. He’d gotten too far out of line, spoken back one too many times, and she’d ripped his throat from his body with hardly a moment of hesitation.
“Ɗσ уσυ ωαηт тσ вє тнє ηєxт єxαмρƖє?”
He let himself be carried in silence for a few nanos, thinking on what he had done, and what had happened to James. It had been a gruesome scene, and every infected had witnessed it. Vira was quick, but her methods left plenty of time for suffering.
The infected program slightly groaned at his queen’s insistence, but he submitted. How could he not? She owned him. She was in his processor. She controlled his task manager. “c-C-c4n wAlK…” he grunted out.
It was the worst form of protest he was allowed. He wanted to impress her. He wanted her to think him special. To approve. Her approval was all he wanted. But after a run in with some reds, he was hardly in an impressive state, even if he had killed two or three, and left the rest with infected wounds that would take many cycles to fully heal.
He turned his head so he could see his queen and then grinned the lopsided grin that had persisted through his infection. “tWo oF th3m wEre CuBe$ bEfoRe tHey KnEw 1 w4s tH3re. ThE rEss$T wIlL bE oFflIn3 f0R cYcl3$.”
He was fishing for a “good job,” some kind of compliment. His Queen was his life, and hearing any sort of praise from her was the greatest thing he could imagine.
"I’d say ‘cσηgяαтυƖαтισηѕ’, but I didn’t infect you to be a fιgнтєя," she snapped shortly. "You’re a hacker, isn’t that what you said? Do you think I need more fighters?”
She rolled her eyes and adjusted him. “And now Lucas is going to have to fιx уσυ. Wasted тιмє.”
The program’s face fell when she snapped at him. He felt like a failure, like he should just find a cliff outside the Den and jump off. But then she said something about wasted time and his eyes brightened.
"n0T CoMpl-teLy w4stEd…"
He reached back as best he could while injured and being carried and pulled out a data sphere. “G0t PerMi$siOnsss… NeeD peRmissI0nS tO gET 1n pLaces. lOw pErmissIonS, buT iS sTaRt.”
He extended the orb up to her. “yOuR$.” he offered.
Vira wanted to laugh in his face, and it showed on hers.
“Pєямιѕѕισηѕ? You did this for pєямιѕѕισηѕ??" She resisted the urge to drop him there. "I have permissions. I need ∂αтα." She snarled low in her throat.