As Olivia plots to capture Jana, what has Jana been doing?
Less than twenty-four hours after I told Tilly about the diagrams we needed, she put them in my hands. Fortunately, she didn’t need my help this time. Of course, she also didn’t need to ascend the exterior of a skyscraper to escape police pursuit, either.
“Really, Jana,” Tilly said, “this job was so simple even you could have done it. My talents were completely wasted on such an easy bit of breaking and entering.”
I offered her a contrite expression, “I am sorry, Tilly. Next time, I’ll see if I can’t arrange for a lively chase so you can perform a few death-defying escapes.”
Tilly lifted her nose into the air and sniffed, “See that you do.”
“Meanwhile, Nathan and I are in your debt.” I handed the rolled-up set of diagrams to Nathan. “I hope you, Mark, and Kelly will excuse us while we spend the next several hours poring over your fine gift to us.”
“That sounds positively boring, dear.” Tilly emphasized that within exaggerated yawn. “May I assume my services will not be needed for the evening?”
“You may,” I replied. “Why, do you have a pressing engagement somewhere?”
“I thought I might pick up a new outfit — something short and slinky — and visit a club or two.”
“That might not be such a good idea. If the RIA is looking for us, it would be best if we both stayed out of sight.”
Tilly rolled her eyes. “God, Jana, you can be such a mother hen sometimes. I know how to be careful and I’ve got that necklace thing you gave me that distorts my face so cams don’t record it. Won’t that do?”
“Only if no one is watching the vid live. If they are, you’ll stand out like… Well, like me at one of those clubs. Only worse.”
Tilly’s face screwed up in disappointment, “I hadn’t thought that through. Someone on the staff always watches those cam feeds. I guess I’ll just stay here and catch up on my reading.”
Nathan, who had watched this exchange in silence, said, “If you tell me the clubs you’re going to, I should be able to intercept their feed to the RIA facial recognition software.”
“Are you sure that will work?” I asked. “Won’t the RIA notice the missing feed?”
“It won’t be missing, Jana. I’ll just route last night’s vids to the RIA, instead. They’ll get data, but it won’t include Tilly.”
I mulled that over for a moment. “Can you make sure last night’s feed doesn’t include some other wanted fugitive?”
Nathan looked offended. “Yes, and that was the first thing I was going to check.” He turned to Tilly, “What clubs do you want to visit?”
Tilly rattled off four or five club names and Nathan went to work. Twenty minutes later, he was back. “You’re all clear, kid. Go have fun.”
“And don’t forget to turn the facial scrambler off when you enter a club and turn it back on when you leave,” I added.
“Are you going to give me a curfew, too, Mom?” Tilly asked.
Before I could come up with a good answer, Tilly turned and sashayed to the door. Looking over her shoulder at Mark, she asked, “Are you coming?”
Mark grinned, “Well, someone should keep you out of trouble.”
Tilly tossed her hair, “You’re welcome to try.”
Mark waved at us and headed for the door. “I do so love a challenge.”
After they left, Kelly looked up from the book she’d been reading. “You want me to follow them and make sure they don’t get in over their heads?”
“No,” I said. “All silliness aside, Tilly knows what she’s doing. She’ll be careful.”
“As will Mark,” Nathan added. He looked at me and held up the rolled up diagrams, “Shall we get started?”
“Yep. Might I add, that you really know how to show a girl great time?”
Most people would think I was kidding about that. I wasn’t. You won’t become one of the best slicers in the galaxy if you find this sort of thing boring. To me, it’s a puzzle to study and solve, a challenge to my intellect. From the energy radiating from Nathan, he felt the same as me.
The next several hours flew by. We were so engrossed, we didn’t even notice when Tilly and Mark returned. Well, we didn’t notice until they barged into the room and told us all about their evening out. Nathan and I pretended like we needed a break and listened to their story. Honestly, it sounded dreadful — people packed wall-to-wall, pounding music, strobing lights warring with deep shadows. Blech. The drinks they had sounded good, but I can have good drinks at home and skip dealing with all that other crap.
After a while, Tilly and Mark stumbled off to get some sleep, leaving Nathan and me to get back to our examination of the diagrams. We’ve been making good progress before the interruption and it didn’t take long to get back into it. A few hours later, we had what we felt was a solid network map showing five different data feeds to the Star Stone. At least, we were pretty sure they went to the Star Stone but would have to make a few network runs to verify that.
We were both too keyed up to go to sleep, so Nathan pulled out a bottle of wine he’d been saving for a special occasion. He popped the cork and poured. We offered a glass to Kelly, but she decided it was time for her to turn in. Left to ourselves, we cuddled on the couch and drank our wine.
It was… Pleasant. Oh God, no, that sounds so tame. Sitting on the couch with Nathan’s arm around me and my head on his shoulder wasn’t just pleasant. It was right.
At least, it was until someone triggered one of Nathan’s alarms.
Did Tilly and Mark somehow tip off the Royal Intelligence Agency? Find out in Chapter 23, coming Friday.