While Jeanine and Olivia react to the Star Stone’s tantrum, what are Jana and friends planning?
The five of us discussed our next moves for close to an hour. Since we were trying to figure out how to do the all-but-impossible on a truly impossible deadline, more than one argument broke out. To my surprise, Tilly wasn’t the one who argued most vociferously against the break-in.
“This whole idea is crazy!” Mark declared. “Chic Thief or not, what you’re asking Tilly to do is impossible. Come on, Nathan, would you try slicing the most secure systems in the Royal Intelligence Agency with less than twenty-four hours to prepare? What about you, Jana? What you’re asking Tilly to do is the burglary equivalent of that.”
Nathan held his hands up in a placating gesture, “I understand the difficulties facing Tilly—”
“I don’t think you do,” Mark growled, leaning forward for emphasis. “If anything, my comparison underplayed the dangers Tilly will face. On a slicing run if things go to hell you just disconnect. During a burglary, if things go to hell the burglar is in real danger. And I mean physical danger not ‘oh no, someone might learn my identity’ danger.”
I looked into Mark’s eyes and saw fear reflected there — fear for Tilly. I offered a small smile, “Tilly is my best friend in the whole galaxy, so I truly understand your concern. I wouldn’t ask this of her if I thought there was any other way. We need that blood sample and she’s the only person I know who can get it. If you know a better way, I’m all ears.”
Mark calmed down somewhat, “No, I don’t have any better ideas. It’s just…”
He trailed off and gave Tilly a misery-filled look. I can be oblivious to emotional situations, but even I knew what Mark’s look meant.
“It’s just what?” Tilly asked as she took his hand.
Mark lowered his eyes, “I haven’t even had a chance to ask you out, much less introduce you to my parents.”
Tilly’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You want to take me home to meet your mother?”
“Oh yeah, she’s going to love you.”
“Even though I’m a thief?”
“So was Mom when she was your age. But we don’t have to tell her about you if you don’t want to.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint your mother.” A silly grin spread across Tilly’s face, “So, I promise I won’t get caught. Besides, I’m a little better equipped for this than most of you think.”
Mark looked up, his curiosity piqued, “How?”
It was Tilly’s turn to look away. “I…uh…lived in the Palace for a month. With William.”
“Were you casing the Palace for a potential job?” Mark asked.
Still not meeting Mark’s eyes, Tilly shook her head, “No, William and I were an item for a while.”
“Okay,” Mark mused. “But you did case the palace while you were living there, right?”
“I knew the Chic Thief was too smart not to take advantage of that situation,” Mark said. “That makes this job a bit easier. Tilly just has to get inside the palace and Jana has to help her get past the alarms. But once she is inside, she’ll know the exact layout. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a hard job but if the queen of thieves can’t pull it off, who can?”
“It’s sweet of you to call me that, Mark, but I’m not a queen of anything.”
Mark waved off Tilly’s protest, “You will be after you pull off this job.”
Tilly rose, “Then we’d better get some breakfast. We’ve got a long day of casing the Palace ahead of us.”
“I’ll check in with Drake and find out what’s happening with our ride out of here,” Kelly said. Her stomach rumbled, so she added, “After breakfast, that is.”
Nathan took my hand, “And Jana and I will go to The Club and see what information we can turn up. Someone among the elite slicers must have made a run against the Palace network.”
I felt a surge of adrenaline when Nathan suggested we make a slicing run. I knew it was an aftereffect of my latest run-in with the Star Stone. But recognizing that wasn’t enough to quell the fear I felt at the idea of returning to the net so soon — even if we weren’t going anywhere near the Star Stone.
Nathan sensed my churning emotions and put an arm around me, “You don’t have to go. I’m pretty good at this slicing stuff and can probably take care of it by myself.”
I smiled gently, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine once we get in there. Besides, we’ll get twice as much done with twice as many slicers. It’s simple math.”
Then we got up and joined the others in the kitchen.
What will our heroes learn on their missions? Find out in Chapter 39, coming Wednesday.