Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

There’s a queue of hopefuls outside. I didn’t allow for them. Do I tag on or what? Barely started and I hit a stumbling block.
“Ambassador Meselkis! I didn’t think you’d be able to join us!”
A glittering, immaculate form swoops down on me. I smile, giving a deprecating wave.
“I didn’t want to cause a fuss.”
“Nonsense! Follow the hoverbird. We’ll have you alongside your daughter in no time at all. It’s such a delight to have two generations of your noble line in attendance.”
Daughter? She’s meant to be on the other side of Quadrant Nine – with her father!

I zoom my eyes: she looks less than delighted to see me approaching. But, by the time we’re in normal range, she’s all smiles, shrieking delightedly and throwing herself at me.
“Daddy! You made it after all.”
The psychic lance that follows would render even a mind-guarded politician helpless.
“Your mother wanted me to remind you of something, Tona. Which gave me the excuse I needed to duck my duties and attend.”
A second, stronger lance fails to penetrate, but manages to make my shield ripple.
“Ooh. Secrets too rich for communicator webs? Do tell.”
I lean in, angling my head so only she can hear, and no-one can read my lips.
“If you could take a break from trying to turn my brain off, we might be able to help each other.”
She leans back and winks.
“For real? Better go deal with that before we party.”
We head off to one side, passing through a tall door into a long, deserted corridor. The door closes. I extend my hand.
“Taylor. Infiltrator. Feyrulanian Ops.”
She shakes it.
“Cassandra. Thief. Self-employed.”
Unexpected, but workable.
“I’m here for a data store. You?”
She smiles.
“Assorted valuables. In the vault behind the silver eagle statue in the library.”
Exactly where I’m headed, and no conflict of targets.
“How were you intending to defeat the security?”
“Stun spray the guards, then use a valid access code, followed by a selection of saliva wipes as I couldn’t get biometrics. Hoping to suss out the right blend before the console times out.”
“I intended to stun dart the guards, use a verified thumbprint, then a code cracker as saliva mixing takes too long. Hoping to get the right combination before the console times out.”
She laughs.
“My excuse for leaving early was my father calling me away.”
I can’t help chuckling: “Mine was having to rush off because my daughter’s been taken ill.”
Cassandra gestures towards the gathering.
“How about we raid the vault, rejoin the party, then exit with the crowd when the fire alarms go off because of a big fire in the library?”
I nod.
“I, being the ambassador, have a limo on call. The chauffeur is one of my team. She’ll like you. You’re her kind of crazy.”
She winks.
“Shall we go steal stuff, dad?”
“Be rude not to, kiddo.”

We dive into the back of the limousine as a burning pages drift down across the plaza.
Dix chuckles.
“You overdid the blaze again, chief.”
She points to Cassandra: “Getting a date while on mission is a first, though.”
Cassandra waves dismissively.
“Don’t mind me, I’m just hitching a ride.”
I grin at her.
“Where to?”
She grins right back: “Drop me anywhere north of the old aqueduct. I can disappear under my own power from there.”
Given the careful selection and probable value of what she stole, I’ve no doubt she’ll make a clean getaway.
“North of the old aqueduct it is. Dix? Go.”