As Tilly dashes for the suite next door to William and Olivia, what’s happening with Jana?
Logic is, without a doubt, the least comforting concept in the universe. It is cold, shedding no warmth for basking. It is calculating, granting no solace for raw emotions. It consoles not. It cares not. Logic is either correct or incorrect. Under its harsh glare nothing else matters.
Logic is why I’m safe and sound in our current hidey-hole scanning the net for alarms. Logic is why people I love are breaking into the Royal Palace while I sit here.
Long ago, logic was my friend — a refuge from a universe that confused a teenage girl. Logic was structure. Logic was sensible. Logic was safe.
Logic is a stone-cold bitch and I am her thrall.
Kelly, the only member of our little gang who wasn’t putting herself in danger at my behest, sat quietly nearby. I think she’s deeply empathic because she let me wallow in misery just long enough to do justice to my feelings but not so long that I became maudlin.
“All right, you can stop pissing and moaning inside your head,” she said. “You’ve got work to do.”
Not quite willing to abandon my self-pity, I spat, “Screw you.”
“No thanks, Jana, I like men. And unless I misinterpreted the sounds coming from the room with the big bed, so do you.”
I felt a blush climb my cheeks. “You heard us?”
Kelly grinned at my embarrassment. “It must have been quite a while since you got laid, honey, because you screamed like a banshee.”
I buried my face in my hands, “Oh God, I’ll never be able to face any of you again!”
“Why do you think?”
“Do you think so little of your friends, Jana?”
That question surprised me. “Um, what?”
“So what if you got a little loud in a moment of ecstasy? You’re in love and, unless I miss my guess, the guy you love is the one you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Don’t you think your friends are happy for you?”
“But you all know that Nathan and I…you know.”
“Did what lovers have done since the beginning of time? Oh dearie me.” Kelly’s tone lost all inflection, “I. Am. So. Shocked.”
To my surprise, I burst out laughing. “When you put it that way, I guess it’s not such a big deal.”
“Exactly.” Kelly let me laugh a bit longer before asking, “Are you finished with your pity party?”
“Yes. I guess I should connect to the network and do my part.”
“I guess you should.”
Rising, I caught Kelly’s gaze with my own. “Thank you.”
She waved if off. “That’s what friends are for. Now, go watch over our other friends and do everything in your power to bring them back safely.”
“Aye aye, Cap’n Cutthroat, ma’am!”
By the time Nathan gave me access to the Palace network I was all business, focused and ready to do my part. It’s a good thing, too, since it took all my concentration to ignore the terse exchanges between Tilly and Nathan. I made sure I had a clear reception from the bots I left monitoring communications for the police, specialized agencies, the RIA, the military… Let’s just say I had bots monitoring anyone who might remotely be summoned if my friends were discovered. Satisfied I’d know if anything came up, I dove into the Palace network.
I found the Royal family’s private database quickly — and it took all my willpower to keep myself from screaming in frustration. The data was disorganized! No, that word is insufficient for the mess I found. I considered calling it haphazard but not even that word captured the true horror I beheld.
This database was random!
God above, how did anyone find anything in that database? I knew the answer, of course. Whoever tended the files had their own method of organizing the information. I’d seen it before, where someone completely undeserving of the title Database Administrator arranged the data to suit themselves, ignoring the possibility that others might go searching for information. The worst part is the pathetic excuse these faux DBAs used to explain away their disorganization.
“My system makes it impossible for slicers to steal our data!” they claim.
As if slicers had any interest in the data they made impossible to find. Except this time, dammit.
Figuratively gritting my teeth, I sent waves of seething hot hatred toward my opponent. Dreamwalker was the equal to any master of disinformation technology and superior to most. Drawing a deep breath I dove into the mess and searched for a key.
I tried the most obvious option first, sorting the files alphabetically and then looking for a one marked ‘catalogue.’ No such luck, but I hadn’t thought it would be that easy.
‘Directory’ was next — and another bust.
Maybe ‘listing’ was it? No.
‘Key?’ Uh uh.
Next up was ‘map.’ Nope.
I tried a dozen more options and none of them worked. Backing out of the database, I calmed my frantically spinning mind and considered other approaches. It dawned on me my database nemesis might not have the key in this database, at all. But where would they have it? Maybe if I knew who the admin was I’d have a better chance of figuring that out.
Slicing the Palace employee records database was a piece of cake. Like all such systems, this data was meticulously maintained and arranged. It took no time at all to find the person I was looking for. Skimming the man’s file I discovered I wasn’t the only person who disapproved of his data sorting methods. The personnel manager, noting how important the Royal family’s personal data was, handily included the key to the database.
Two seconds later I had a perfectly sorted, perfectly decipherable database. One second after that, I had the information I most wanted — the Royal family’s personal map of the Palace, including secret rooms and passages, and the contents of their private library. And in that private library? The very report I desperately wanted to read.
Except there was no digital copy of it. The Royal family had just one physical copy of the thing. Of all the rotten luck! Hoping for a miracle, I examined the reader log for the report.
And discovered my miracle. The miracle even had a name — Her Royal Highness Princess Olivia. She had the report in her suite right now! The very same suite Tilly was breaking into soon. Surely a thief of her caliber could grab the report along with a blood sample, right?
Thinking my success boded well for our plan, I turned my attention to Tilly’s progress. That’s when every alarm in the Palace went off.
Will the alarms Nathan set off ultimately foil Tilly? Find out in Chapter 46, coming Friday.