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Senator Ryman nodded, lips pressed into a thin line. “I have three daughters. All of them are at the ranch with their grandparents, waiting for their mother to rejoin them.”

“Trying to avoid making them a target?”

“That’s unavoidable, unfortunately. It’s the nature of modern politics. But I can keep them out of the spotlight for as long as I can.”

I kept my sunglasses pulled down, studying him. Unlike most people, he met my eyes without flinching. Having a wife with retinal KA probably helped with that. Finally, I slid my glasses back into place and nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”

He offered a quick, boyish smile, his relief showing clearly. “Thank you, Miss Mason. Don’t let me keep you any longer. I’m sure you’re anxious to check the state of your vehicles.”

“If your goons scratched my bike, I’ll have to get bitchy,” I cautioned, and left the room, following the path Shaun and Buffy had taken to the yard. Leaving Emily out of things would be relatively easy. The way the kitchen was lit meant we could limit footage of her without changing the overall tone of the afternoon, and without being too blatant—looking like you’re hiding something is the fastest way to bring the vultures down. I’d have to leave it up to Buffy, of course. She’s our graphics wiz.

The interesting part was that he was willing to ask for it at all. Senator Ryman knew he’d only get to ask us to leave things out so many times before we started resisting, and once that happened, he wasn’t going to be a happy man. So why introduce us to Emily at all, if the introduction meant he’d have to use one of his limited “get out of jail free” cards to keep her out of a puff piece about meeting the candidate over some good old-fashioned fish tacos? It was possible he was just trying to play on our sympathies—“Golly, my wife doesn’t like to be seen on camera, and it could endanger the kids, so you’ll be good to us, right?”—but that didn’t seem likely. It seemed a lot more realistic to me that she’d wanted the chance to meet us, and he was willing to go along with it, as long as it kept her happy with him. I’ve learned to trust my hunches, and they were telling me now that the senator and his wife were generally good folks, with the bad taste to choose politics and horse breeding as their respective careers.

Our vehicles were parked out front. The van had been scrubbed until it gleamed, and even the relay towers were clean. All the chrome on my bike had been buffed until it was almost too bright to contemplate, even through my sunglasses. “I don’t think that thing’s been this clean since before I bought it,” I said, shoving my glasses back up my nose. The sunset was on the way, and as far as I was concerned, it was taking a little too much of its own sweet time about things.

Shaun stuck his head out of the van’s rear door and waved, calling, “Hey, George! They got the fruit punch stain out of the upholstery!”

“Really?” I couldn’t help being impressed. That stain had been in the van since three days after the parents gave it to us, and that was on our eighteenth adoption day. “Class A license means Class A equipment,” Dad said, and that—well, that, and roughly three hundred hours of back-breaking work—was that.

“And they moved all Buffy’s wires around,” he said, with a certain degree of sadistic glee, before retreating back into the van.

I smothered a smile as I started toward the van, pausing to run one hand down the sleekly polished side of my bike. If the security crew had scratched the paint, they’d also buffed the scratch clean without leaving a trace. It was impressive work.

Things were less peaceful inside the van. Shaun was sprawled in a chair, cleaning his crossbow, while Buffy was flat on her back under one of the desks, heels drumming against the floor as she yanked wires out of their current, incorrect locations and jammed them into new holes. Every time she yanked a wire, one or more of the van’s monitors would start to roll or be consumed by static, turning the scene into something abstract and surrealistic, like a bad B-grade horror movie. She was also swearing like a merchant marine, displaying a grasp of profanity that was more than a little bit impressive.

“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” I asked, stepping over the spools of discarded cabling and taking a seat on the counter.

“Look at this!” She shoved herself out from under the desk and into a kneeling position, brandishing a fistful of cables in my direction. I raised my eyebrows, waiting. “All of these were connected wrong! All of them!”

“Are they labeled?”

Buffy hesitated before admitting, “No.”

“Do they follow any sort of normal, sane, or predictable system?” I knew the answer to that one. Shaun and I did most of the electrical work, but the actual wiring is all Buffy’s, and she thought most people were too conservative with the way they managed their inputs. I’ve tried to understand her system a few times. I’ve always come away with a migraine and the firm conviction that, sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

“They didn’t have to unplug everything,” Buffy muttered, and crawled back under the desk.

Shaun pulled back the string on his crossbow with one finger, checking the tension, and said, “You can’t win. Logic has no power over her when her territory has been invaded by the heathens.”

“Got it,” I said. The monitor next to me rolled to static before it began displaying a video feed of the yard outside. “Buffy, how long before we’re fully operational again?”

“Fifteen minutes. Maybe twenty. I haven’t checked the wires on the backup consoles yet, so I don’t know how big of a mess they made there.” The irritation in her voice was unmasked. “No data loss so far, but none of the van’s exterior cameras got anything but static for over an hour, thanks to their stupid monkeying.”