The tension in the van was slowly receding. Ezer looked pleased with himself.
“Chitter, good job as always on getting into their systems, and your little bugs are the shit,” he kept on. “Love ‘em. Allayne – you patched Erramun up so fast, I didn’t even get a chance to see the hole. Thanks. And Senga and Erramun, you guys definitely held their attention and kept to your roles the whole time.” He looked back in the mirror at them. “Try not to get so bloody next time, all right? It makes me techy.”
Without a word, Chitter passed him a candy bar. Ezer snorted. “Fine, fine, it makes me bitchy. I don’t know, Chitter, anything out of that security guard?”
“Allayne triggered something, not an alarm, some sort of tertiary back-up. Yes, I know I should have caught it, yes, I feel like an idiot for not catching it, but it was really well hidden. It was – look, here, see?”
“You know it doesn’t mean anything to me,” Ezer complained.
“Yeah, well.” Chitter huffed. “So anyway, they snuck in a sort of sleeping alarm. It isn’t active at all unless there’s someone in the room. And then it’s only active if a certain set of things happen. So essentially, Allayne hit a light switch that nobody could see because it was invisible.” She grumbled. “And that’s the sort of thing that pisses me off and makes me want to go back to school. I don’t know how they did it. I don’t know if they were talking to the machines, if it’s someone like me, but it’s good. And I’m sorry, big guy. If I had noticed that-”
“You already said it was impossible.” Erramun reached forward and carefully patted Chitter’s shoulder. “I’m fine. Little bullet can’t do that much damage.” He hesitated and, when Ezer didn’t fill the silence, he continued. “This thing. How would you learn how to see it?”
“How would I – by learning to make it, probably. By learning how other hackers do things, a little, but mostly by how other security people do their thing. I mean, I’ve never really thought about it, because like two thirds of what I do is just intuitive, just my power. Now that we’re getting into more intense jobs, uh, everyone here thinks I do magic but the truth is – mostly it’s just, uh, magic.”
Erramun chuckled, but it sounded gentle, not like he normally handled Chitter at all. “I have a contact who might be able to help you – if you want the help. They could maybe show you some tricks you hadn’t thought of, and maybe they could give you some pointers.” He cleared his throat. “That is, if my lady says that such contact is okay.”
“Senga? Senga, you wouldn’t tell your… assassin boyfriend… not to contact his assassin friends… who might… not like…” Chitter sighed sadly. “…him being collared by a little mercenary fighter a quarter of his age, against his will… would you?”
Senga snorted. “When you put it that way, how could I refuse?” She looked over at Erramun.
He shrugged. “It’s a risk. I wouldn’t let them hurt you, but you can’t know that without a lot of orders and they don’t know that and might not believe it.”
“You think you can help Chitter, though?”
“Yeah. I know someone who really knows his stuff. Might be able to give her some direction. Another fae, but you’d never know it.”
“I don’t know if-”
“Too bad, boss.” Chitter thumped her hand down on Ezer’s leg hard. The van veered to the left sharply and then corrected. “This isn’t your thing.”
“You just called me boss, how is it not my thing?”
“Because you’re not really my boss.”
Chitter made it sound like duh was hanging in the air around her sentence. It just made Ezer grumble more.
“I am your crewmate, and how do you have any idea that this is safe?”
“I don’t. but come on. Look at what Allayne and Senga – and Erramun – do on a run. I can meet with someone, you know, that’s not the end of the world. Just meet with someone, talk with them, have some conversation? It’ll be educational one way or the other, and I might end up being better at what I do.”
“Chitter, you’re great at what you do.”
Senga shared a look with Allyane; Allayne shrugged they were going to stay out of it, it seemed. Senga was fine with that. She was counting on her leg, three, two-
“You have no idea what I do!” Chitter seemed to get five inches taller and a big broader. When she was angry, her voice dropped in pitch instead of getting shriller. “Face it, Ezer. We all know what you do. We have some idea what Senga does. Allayne does a lot more than we think she does, but she is still, uh, any of us could understand at least half of her explanation. Can you say that about what I do?”
“Shit,” Senga mouthed. The last time this had happened, everything had been awful for weeks — but the last time this had happened, both she and Ezer had put their feet in their mouths a lot worse than this.
“Easy, tiny warrior.” Erramun leaned forward until his head was almost level with Chitter’s. “Esay. Everyone has specialized skills, and yours aren’t made any easier by being new, strange, and esoteric.”
Senga let out a breath. Ezer managed to get his eyes back on the road. Erramun was — was he helping? Or making things worse?
Chitter huffed. “Tiny warrior. I’ll give you tiny warrior —”
“You will, I’m sure. And when we get home, we can spar. And then we can contact my friend. sa’Chitter, this was not your fault.”
“It was. I didn’t see the trap! It was too good! I’m not good enough!”
She was wailing. Senga had never seen her friend so much as sniffle, much less sudden alligator tears. She reached forward towards Erramun — and stopped.
“Ezer, be careful,” he warned. A moment later, he had pulled Chitter onto his lap.