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“Man thought he could make us do this separately,” said Shaun. Taking the still-yowling Lois from me, he slid the carrier into the luggage hatch. The sensors would record the fact that the box contained a living thing, but they would also record its weight. Lois was too small for amplification and would slide straight through. “Man’s an idiot.”

“No, he’s an amateur,” I said, moving into position in front of the blood testing panel. I raised my right hand. Shaun stepped into position next to me and raised his left. “One ”


We pressed our palms flat.

Steve was waiting on the other side of the air lock, shaking his head. “You probably just scared Agent Rodriguez out of a year of his life,” he scolded, without conviction.

“Given that Agent Rodriguez just annoyed me out of a year of my life, I’d say we’re even,” I said, retrieving Lois from the luggage bin. “Do we need to wait on him, or can you show us to our rooms?”

“And our van,” Shaun said. “You promised me our van.”

“Your van is in the parking garage, along with Georgia’s bike,” Steve said. Fishing two small plastic rectangles out of his jacket pocket, he passed them to us. “Shaun, you’re in room two-fourteen. Georgia, you’re in room two-seventeen.”

We exchanged a look. “Those don’t sound adjoining,” I said.

“Originally, you were going to be sharing a room with Ms. Meissonier, Georgia, while Shaun and Mr. Cousins shared a room down the hall,” Steve said. “It seemed best to let you keep your privacy, given recent events.”

“Right.” Shaun handed his key back to Steve. “I’ll just stalk along with George until you can get me my own key. Rick and Lois can have some valuable alone time to re-bond after their separation.” As if on cue, Lois yowled.

Steve’s eyebrows arched upward. “You two would rather share a room?”

His expression was a familiar one. We’ve been seeing it from teachers, friends, colleagues, and hotel concierges since we hit puberty. It’s the “you’d rather share a room with your opposite-gender sibling than sleep alone?” face, and it never fails to irritate me. Social norms can bite me. If I need to have someone guarding my back when the living dead show up to make my life more interesting than I want it to be, I want that someone to be Shaun. He’s a light sleeper, and I know he can aim.

“Yes,” I said, firmly. “We two would rather share a room.”

For a moment, Steve looked like he might argue. Then he shrugged, dismissing it as none of his business, and said, “I’ll have them send up a second key and get your luggage moved. Georgia, all your things and the equipment that you had marked as vital are already in your room.”

That meant they’d been searched—standard security—but I didn’t particularly care. I make it a rule never to keep sensitive data unencrypted where other people might get at it. If Senator Ryman’s security detail wanted to waste their time looking for answers in my underpants, they could be my guests. “Excellent. We’ll just head for our room, then, if you don’t mind? Assuming you don’t feel the need to accompany us.”

“I’m going to trust the two of you not to get yourselves killed between here and the elevator,” said Steve.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I said. Shaun snapped a salute and we walked away, Lois still yowling, to follow the wall-mounted signs leading us to the elevators in the lobby.

The hotel was old enough that the elevators still ran up and down in fixed shafts. It would have been an interesting novelty if I hadn’t been so wired and exhausted. As it was, I stared at the mirrors on the walls, trying to ignore my growing headache and the increasingly fevered pitch of Lois’s complaints. She wanted out of the box, and she wanted out now. I understood the sentiment.

Our hotel room was as old as the elevator, with hideous wallpaper striped in yellow, green, and brown, and a steel-reinforced window looking out over the central courtyard. Sunlight reflecting off the pool three floors down turned the water into a giant flare of light, shining directly through our window. I whimpered involuntarily, whipping my face around and squeezing my eyes shut. Shaun shoved past me to close the blackout curtains, and I stumbled blind into the room, letting the door swing closed.

The lights were off, and when Shaun got the curtains fastened the room was plunged into blessed darkness. He walked back across the room, putting a hand on my elbow. “It’s safe now,” he said. “The beds are this way.”

“That was a rotten trick,” I complained, and let him guide me.

“But funny.”

“Not funny.”

“I’m laughing.”

“I know where you’re planning to sleep tonight.”

“And yet somehow, still funny.” He stopped walking, pushing down on my shoulder as he took the cat carrier out of my hands. “Sit. I’ll get things set up.”

“Don’t forget the EMP screen,” I said, settling on the bed and flopping backward. The mattress was younger than the décor. I bounced. “And get the servers up.”

“I have done this before,” said Shaun. The amusement was evident in his tone, but it wasn’t enough to conceal the concern. “You look like hell.”

“You can tell that with the lights off?”

“You looked like hell before the evil day star punched you in the face. Now you look like hell in a darkened room. Easier on the eyes, no less hellish.”

“Why didn’t you say anything before?”

“We were surrounded by people, and you were getting your bitchy-and-thwarted on. It didn’t seem appropriate.” Rattling noises marked his passage across the room, followed by a thump and the sound of a lightbulb being unscrewed. “I’m swapping the bulbs in the bedside lights.”


“No worries. You’re more pleasant when you haven’t got a migraine.”