"You're back?" Ruby asked Basha.
Basha staggered backwards, bumping into a man standing behind him. He put a hand to his head. "Where did I go? What did I..." he saw the blood running down Ruby's arm. "What happened to you?"
"You bit me," she said.
"Please share the upgrade," a woman behind him said. Others repeated the request. At the back of the crowd, Chandra stood grinning, nodding her head.
Basha turned, noticing the others as if for the first time. "What the—"
"They want the Aeterna Storm upgrade. And now you've got it."
"So give it to them."
Basha looked from the Simps to Ruby. "You don't think that's a little creepy?"
"Sure, but it's necessary."
Basha leaned in to one of the woman and kissed her on the mouth. She kissed him back. Then she froze. The grin on her face faded.
"Do you want me to kiss the men?" Ruby asked.
"No, I got this," Basha said. His grin was back, but now his eyes reflected a wicked glee. He turned to the next Simp, a tall man. He leaned in for a kiss.
* * *
Chandra was one of the last to be upgraded. When her eyes cleared, she said, "Oh, thank God. That was just sick."
Dr. VanSant, one of the cured Simps, took charge the moment the giddy spell left him. He spotted Dr. Yocum. "Who let Faraday out of his cell?"
Yocum/Faraday scowled back at him. He said nothing as a pair of researchers took his arms and led him away.
"What happened here?" VanSant demanded of Ruby.
"You were infected with Aeterna Storm," she said.
"That's impossible. If that were the case, we wouldn't be speaking now."
"You've gotten an upgrade," Ruby said. She pointed at Chandra. "She's the one that came up with the solution."
"Hey," Basha snapped. "We both did it."
As VanSant peppered Chandra with questions, Ruby searched for Skylar. When she pulled open a metal cabinet, Skylar zipped out, screaming. "Where is he? That little bastard is going to—"
She turned, noticing Ruby. "Hey, are you okay?"
"I'm okay," Ruby said. "Let's get out of here."
* * *
Bryce landed in front of the GenCorp entrance. "So, you did it?"
"I couldn't have done it without you," Ruby said.
Bryce scoffed. "I sat back and waited."
"And saved my ass when I was cornered."
"Yeah, but I should have been in there with you."
"I think we did things right."
Bryce stared up at the moon. "Can we get my name off of that now?"
"Sure. What do you want the moon to say?"
"I was getting used to the Sky Cola thing."
"Make it 'Skylar Cola,'" Skylar suggested, sitting on Ruby's shoulder.
"Or we could leave it blank," Ruby said. "Maybe it's time for the moon to just be the moon."
"Why not?" Bryce said.
"Give me a lift back to the window I escaped from?"
As Ruby climbed in, Basha came running. "You guys leaving without me?"
"We're just going to fix the moon," Ruby said.
"Well, we need to get back to Cavaheim and save the city."
"You plan on kissing everyone there?" Bryce asked.
"I'm serious. I've screwed too many things up. Now I've got a chance to do something good for my people."
"What about Chandra?" Ruby asked.
"She's staying. She's got to get things sorted with these scientist bozos. They want to study the upgrade so they can shut the nanobots down for good."
"Hop in," Bryce said. "We've got one stop to make, then we can head back to Cavaheim."
They flew to the second story window at the far end of the Gen-Corp building. Ruby stood up on her seat. "I'll only be a second," she said and leapt into the open window.
Skylar flew in after her. "I've been here before," she said.
"When?" Ruby asked.
"I've been everywhere. I tend explore places when I get the chance."
"When you were in here, did you see the projector?"
"I saw it. I just didn't see the point of it."
"The point is, whatever is written on the projector gets—"
"Why aren't you smiling?" asked the man in the business suit.
Ruby turned to face him. He stood grinning in the doorway.
She sighed. "I've got an upgrade. So I'm not smiling because I have a brain."
The man shuffled forwards, grinning, his jaw opening. "Upgrade?"
"Searching for signal," he said, nearing her.
He was only two steps from her when he suddenly froze. His mouth opened in sudden distress. Then he fell to the floor.
"There," Tim said, standing behind him. "This guy won't bother you now."
"You killed him?" Ruby asked, stunned.
"Yep. No more joy zombie." He smiled with satisfaction.
"But I have the upgrade. He couldn't have hurt me."
"Upgrade? Huh." Tim looked down at the dead man, puzzled. "I guess I haven't been following current events."
"What do you want?"
"Hmm?" He looked up. "Oh, I have a message for Eddie. You'll be seeing Eddie soon, right?"
"I don't know. What's your message."
Tim beamed. With the dark circles around his eyes, he looked ghoulish. "I've figured things out. I won't be bothering him anymore."
"Oh. Well, he'll be happy to hear it."
"You make it sound like he doesn't like me."
"He's afraid of you. I'm afraid of you."
"What's to be afraid of?"
"You can kill us all just by thinking about it."
"But I don't want to kill you, Ruby. I like you. And I think you and Eddie are good together."
"Oh. Um. Thanks."
He shrugged. "Also, tell Eddie I appreciate all he's done for me. As I was looking for him, I found someone I didn't expect at all."
"I'd been down the list of everyone I knew who knew Eddie as well. I found a couple folks from my dream in the turnpike. They'd spotted Eddie just a few hours ago, and from there, I found the most amazing person. Her name is Gretchen Atwater."