Getting out was always the worst. She could hang around the nooks and crannies of any ceiling for hours to catch her prey, those elusive tidbits of info that outside of this room would be so fiercely encrypted it would take Deep Thought the better part of a lifetime to crack. But getting out? Not her favourite part of the job.
Scilla hung from a particularly vaulted ceiling in the Scandinavian Embassy, pondering the twists and turns of her life. Not many, of course, but those there were. If it hadn’t been for that episode in Amsterdam, she could have been born to do nothing else but relaying info from one room to the market. Like she did now. Always seemed to be something lacking. Like friends, or … well, just someone.
Strangely, these thoughts always struck her when it was time to leave. Gosh, she hated getting out. Getting in was always easier, you could wing it with whatever or whoever you found. Seduce this one, knock that one out and bride those others. Simple. If she tried to do that getting out, the people whose information was so valuable would know they had been caught and change that information, making her go through all this for naught.
After she closed the uplink in her head, she crawled from beam to beam, doing her best to avoid kicking dust and debris down towards the huge conference table some five metres down. This should be one of her easiest getaways. Not that anything ever was particularly hard when you were the best, some were just easier than others. In the wall at the end of the room was a hatch, through there and …
Ass-badger! Her feet dangled under her and she scrambled wide-eyed to get up on top of the beams again. Any second now, the rain of dust would make one of them turn a frowning face up towards her clumsy ass. I hate getting out, she thought when she finally swung her last foot over the beam to safety. She only had two. Feet, that is. But it felt like a hundred when she screwed up like this. It would have been much easier without feet. Maybe not. It just felt like it right now.
She clenched her teeth and kept going. The party downstairs had not noticed but that was beside the point. It had been this close to making a good three months’ worth of preparation redundant. She stopped just in front of the hatch, taking a deep breath. She reached out. Locked. That was … unfortunate.
Someone knew she was there. Someone might even have seen her. Scilla reached into her leg pocket and fished out her lockpicks. This was not progressing according to plan. Should have been easy from here. Through the hatch, down the chute and out past the old underground station. And nowhere did this plan say anything about anyone locking this hatch behind her. Yet someone clearly had. The same someone might be waiting for her on the other side.
Scilla looked around. A skylight sat alone halfways through the hall on her left. That would be easy. Too easy? She might even be playing into this someone’s hands if she went with the skylight. Scilla slid the lockpicks back into the hatch. This was the last time getting out. No more spying. Time to try something else. Like … carpentry or baking.
In a flurry of arms and legs, she fell through the hole the hatch left as it swung away. Should’ve taken the skylight, she thought before landing heavily on her back. Her mouth tasted of black iron and her head was spinning. This definitely did not progress according to plan. Scilla jerked aside, away from the presence on her left. A hand planted itself on her face and another on her shoulder. She winced. Sharp pain flashed down from that shoulder.
“Be still,” a voice whispered. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Scilla relaxed and let herself be carried down a dark hall. Not because she felt she had to, it would have been easy to twist loose and incapacitate this small-framed person, but because she was curious. This someone did not want to hurt her. That was new, and … exhilarating.
She swung through the air and thumped into a chair. A slight woman in white quickly moved away from her.
“You know something,” she said to Scilla, training a gun at her.
“Yes,” Scilla answered.
“Something you heard today,” the woman continued. “I want you to forget that.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Scilla said. “The info is already on the market. You can buy it like everyone else.”
“What if I kill you?”
“Doesn’t matter, the info will still sell to the highest bidder. Unless I take it off the market.”
The woman turned away from Scilla, a finger tracing her lips. A step and a twist would bring her into Scillas grip but Scilla remained seated. The woman was not used to these situations, that was clear. Maybe she was a nice person. Scilla tasted the words. It was like an oxymoron. Nice … person.
The last time Scilla met someone who resembled a nice person was in Amsterdam. That time, she had tried to both sell and keep the info. The buyers really had not appreciated that, of course. And the nice person, who had got the info for free, had done nothing to help her. She had concluded that he was not a nice person at all and given up on the concept. But if she was going into carpentry or baking, maybe someone who was willing to turn her back on an untied master spy was exactly the kind of someone she needed. Scilla checked the uplink. The info was still unsold.
“I could take it off the market,” she said.
The woman turned.
“How about,” Scilla said, “a cup of coffee. With a … friend?”