There was that, and Silas’s hand tightened around Summer’s waist.
“I hear you all have to wait six months to retake,” Peri said. “If someone tried that with me, I’d trash the grading computer so everyone had to retake. They won’t make everyone wait to graduate, and if they run them again . . .” Peri smirked, turning to the jukebox to make another selection.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Allen said softly.
Suddenly wary, Silas stopped looking for another table. “What,” he said flatly.
“We could do that!” Allen said with wide-eyed enthusiasm. “We could break into the registrar’s office and wipe out everyone’s grades for the semester.”
Summer began to laugh. “Allen, love. They back those up,” she said, and Silas frowned, wishing Allen would let it go.
“So we put the system in a death spiral instead,” Allen said, waving his arms and inching into Peri’s personal space. “It will have the same effect. If they can’t reboot, they can’t post grades. Silas knows how to do that.”
“And everyone on campus knows it,” Silas said as Peri pushed Allen right back with a stiff finger. Silas hid a smile, enjoying how the woman was reading everyone quickly and correctly. His smile faded. Something had hurt her in the past, something that made her good at assessing people fast. But most drafters were like that.
“Which means nothing if they can’t prove it was you,” Allen persisted. “It will take months to rebuild. Win-win,” he said brightly. “Either we do it and they let us graduate with everyone else due to the general disarray, or we fail and deserve being held back.”
Summer gave Silas a weary look. Silas agreed. Allen’s expression darkened upon seeing it. “What are they going to do?” Allen said. “Kick us out of the program? We’re too valuable.”
Well, Silas was valuable, and Summer, being a drafter, was valuable. Allen . . . not so much, and with that, Silas realized Allen was fighting for something he knew he was at risk of losing. With no drafter invested in him, Allen had to prove himself, or he’d be shoved into the slush pool, where he’d do research and file papers until catching the eye of a high-profile drafter. It was sort of Silas’s fault, not for having screwed up his final, but for using Allen as a buffer so he could maintain a relationship with Summer, a relationship that was destined to fall apart unless he proved he could be an effective anchor.
“We’ll do it,” he said suddenly, and Summer gasped, almost as shocked as Allen.
“Silas, are you kidding?” Summer said, eyes wide.
“Opti rewards bold, decisive behavior,” he said nervously, and Peri’s eyebrows rose in question. “It couldn’t make things worse. And it might be my only chance to prove that I could make a good anchor and get out of the labs,” he finished, hating that his neck had gone red.
Allen went quiet. “Okay,” he said slowly as the music changed again, into something dark and dangerous. “We’ve got two days to figure this out. Peri, you still have that drone you stole?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” she said, hand raised as she dropped back a step. “Why are you assuming I want to get involved?”
“You mean the one she hit Silas with?” Summer asked. “Silas said it was busted.”
“You owe Silas for getting his exam thrown out,” Allen said, and she shook her head, not buying it. “Then do it because you’re three years behind in impressing the hell out of the instructors, every one of whom are going to see a little rich girl playing spy and put you in the mail room so your mommy doesn’t sue them when you break a nail,” he tried again.
Ooooo, that hurt, Silas thought as she flushed, clearly sensitive about her size, or maybe her background. “It won’t fly,” Peri said.
But that wasn’t a no, and Allen grinned. “I can get it working and off-grid in two hours.”
“Good,” Peri said. “Because when I was in there today registering for classes, I heard they were going to deliver grades over the weekend. We have six hours.”
Tonight? We’ll have to do it tonight? Silas’s pulse raced. It was like making lemonade from a cow patty. But Summer and he would have a chance to prove they could work together, perhaps getting him out of the labs, where he might be able to find something lasting with her. Allen would have the chance to make himself stand out, or at the very least gain some points with a rising, clearly talented drafter. And Peri, well, Allen hadn’t lied about her possibly ending up in a soft, low-profile job.
They were all looking at Silas, committed but waiting for confirmation. Peri had the intel, Allen and Summer the know-how, and he the technology that would make it work.
“Why the hell not?” he said, and Summer smiled at him, kindling a growing feeling of anticipation.
A simmering tension made Silas’s grip on the micro-iron chancy, and he cursed his thick fingers as the delicate tool slipped from the wristband’s circuitry, threatening Summer’s pale skin. Summer had such slim hands. The thought that he might hurt her made him nervous.
“Relax.” Summer leaned into him, calming him with her touch. “You’ve got this.”
But it was her skin he might tear if he angled the tool too tight. Worried, he bent over the wristband again. The oily scent of the smut Summer had traced around his eyes earlier seemed to get into them, and he blinked fast.