In this scene,
Senth has just gotten a
password-protected message
from his father and is looking
for a private place to hear it.

Folks in this town never referred to Luc Saint-Cyr by name. You heard the capital letters when they called him the Man, or they referred to him as the Harbinger. Senth's father was the daddy crime lord all the baby crime lords wanted to be.

"Ooh, big scary Man." He thumbed off the device. "Please let this be a job and not him finding out I hacked Planet Fun."

Senth crossed the street and entered the Miraj City Bakery Café. No crowd this early, though a group of professors shared drinks at one of the tables in the back. There were no undergraduate classes this week. Cloak distribution had overturned the beehive.

A clean smell of freshly brewed coffee pulled him deeper into the room.

The android on duty rolled up to him. "Welcome, Blue Shadow. How may I serve you today?"

"Like to use your storeroom a minute." He flashed his father's hand sign. "Private business."

"Of course, sir." The droid offered a keycard.

"Oh, please. I've broken into that room so many times, I prolly owe you guys rent."

On the droid's nametag, a bar of yellow lights indicated confusion. "Pardon, sir?"

"It was a joke. Owing rent for--" Senth held up both hands. "Never mind. No key needed."

He followed the maze of corridors to the back. At the door, he pulled out his lockpick and adjusted the settings. When he pointed it at the lock, the device signaled a lockout error and the tiny screen flashed nonsense letters at him.

What in the worlds did PROBATA mean?

He twisted the tip of the pick and floated the stats as a holovid. Probata Corporation. Wasn't that the system his prof in Premium Fingersmithing ranted about? Something about useless upgrades and pointless codes. What did she say about a bypass trick?

"Think, Senth. You sat there listening to the woman fume for two solid wasted hours."

Oh, no he hadn't.

No, that was the day Senth had flaked out of classes and spent a full day at Planet Fun with his mates. He'd recorded it instead. But had he transcribed it to his code book?

Of course not. And didn't that make this encounter so much more fun? He pinched the bridge of his nose, but his father always did that so Senth stopped it at once.

Why was a lock on a coffee shop's storeroom door harder than a security system at the planet's busiest amusement park? What were they storing in there? The Empress's private coffee stash?

Curiosity over the message from his far-from-patient father burned through his mental pockets. Wait. His father. Surely, he'd have the new codes.

Yes, and then he'd want to know why Senth didn't and no way was he explaining to dear old Dad how he hacked into Planet Fun for "a planetful of fun" instead of going to class.

That fortune Dad paid for Senth to attend classes at the guild academy? Yeah, wasted a full day of it to impress a few girls, which was why he was calling needing a bail out.

And no way was he going back to the droid, stand right in front of a table full of professors, and do the Hey can I borrow your key thing.


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