Across the small on-campus apartment’s living room, Allen and Peri were working out the details of using her phone to drive the reappropriated drone. Using his phone and the drone as a booster, they could link the computer in the registrar’s office to the one in Silas’s lab without using the monitored fiber-optic lines. With it, they’d have the distance to remain blameless, if not anonymous.
The rest of their tools—lock picks, camera spray, smartphone-to-glass technology adapter, and DNA-destroying wipes—were assembled on the coffee table beside them. They were waiting for him, and Silas tried to concentrate as Peri looked over his and Summer’s apartment, the smart woman learning more about him than he was comfortable with.
Anyone could tell he and Summer had been together a long time. The two-room flat was a pleasant mix of him and her, no clashing of styles but a comfortable, easy “us.” That Summer might someday put things in boxes and leave to work with someone other than him was terrifying. Who did the complete set of Lord of the Rings DVDs belong to? Who would keep the glasses, each chip having a story to tell? The towels on the rack she had insisted were too expensive? Who retained the picture of them at the amusement park, and who would have an empty spot on their coffee table?
He squinted at the unexpected anxiety, exhaling when Summer shifted the light. This has to work, he thought as he tried the new angle Summer had suggested. I can’t lose her because I’m too good at my job.
The sliding sound of Peri putting the picture of them in the bumper cars back on the coffee table seemed to rake across his soul. Her expression was as tight as his, as if she were seeing something from her past in their happy faces. “My dorm has a three a.m. curfew,” she said, giving the picture a last nudge to put it precisely where it had been. “If I’m not back by then, it will raise a flag.”
Summer shifted on the seat beside him, uneasy. “Just go,” she said, and Silas’s grip on her wrist tightened at the heartache in her eyes, the clear blue of them lost behind the ring of black camouflage. “I’ll stay here. Keep your back door open.”
Allen looked up from his phone, using it like a mirror to apply the same facial recognition deterrent around his eyes. “You think three of us can do this?” he asked, handing the smut stick to Peri, who capped it off and dropped it into her waist pack.
“We won’t have to,” Silas said, fighting the tension. “I just need . . . there.” He slumped as he finally got the circuit cleared and was able to pull the chipped bracelet from Summer’s arm. “You’re good,” he said as he put it next to the speaker where Allen’s wristband lay. The faint thump of the electronic dance music would give the impression of a pulse, and the work light hanging over it would keep it at body temperature. It was their window of opportunity and their alibi all at once.
“I’m not a dog to be chipped.” Allen stood, shrugging into his black jacket and checking the ties on his boots. “Thanks, Silas.”
“No problem.” Silas stood as well, but his relief was short-lived. He turned to find his satchel, but was distracted by his tablet chiming that the data had finished compiling. As much as he wanted to see it, that could wait, and he bumped into Summer as she handed his satchel to him; he wasn’t expecting her to be that close. Her smile was a sad hint, and his arms went around her in a quick, fervent hug. “This will be quick like bunnies,” he predicted, but it felt like a wish, a hope.
“I know,” she whispered, but even if they did this right, there were no guarantees.
He held Summer’s coat for her, and as Allen and Peri waited impatiently by the door with the stolen drone, he gave one last look at the space that he and Summer had made. His eyes rose to his friends, all of them looking like exotic ancient warriors, with the battle paint around their eyes and across their cheekbones.
“Let’s go,” he said, and one by one they filed out before him. Silas shut the door behind him and set the biometrics lock. It felt more final than it should.
From there, it was a quick jog across the night-darkened campus to the registrar’s office. The noise of partying students was obvious, and they skirted a drunken crowd at the fountain, slowing to a halt in the quiet of the deserted office building. It was designated low-security, but there’d be someone on site, and Silas held his breath as Allen hugged the building and gave the door camera a spritz of camera fog. Nodding, he stepped back, and Summer typed in the students’ access code. The light over the door made her into an angel.
“This is the coolest thing,” Allen said as he rubbed the excess camera fog from his fingers. “How come we don’t have this?”
“It’s still in development,” Silas said, not surprised Allen had never seen it. The science geeks were still tweaking it, but Silas thought it was perfect as it was, evaporating in thirty seconds and designed to block detail without attracting the attention of whoever was watching the monitors.
“Drone is up,” Peri said, the faint glow of her phone lighting her face as she stood outside the camera’s range with her back to the building. “And . . . we’ve got connection. No reason to think it won’t hold once we’re inside.”
Frowning, Summer again typed the access code. From the reader, a dismal beep sounded. “Uh, guys?”
Allen slumped. “Great,” he said, looking behind him. “This is going to look fabulous on my résumé. We can’t even get in. You think there’s an open window or something?”