Chapter 35

Pazi reached up and adjusted the horn jutting from the center of the headband she now wore. She took one last moment to check the stylized makeup she had applied, and then turned to Zap. “There,” she said. “All done.”

From his position on her bed, Zap smiled at her. “Awesome.”

“How do I look?” Pazi said, smiling and turning in a circle.

“Like something burned the back of your neck,” Click’s roommate said. As best as Click could tell, his empty eye sockets were registering concern.

“Don’t worry about it, Eyes,” Click murmured. “It was an accident.”

“It’s like somebody heated up a gauntlet and grabbed you from behind,” Hollow-Eyes said, floating behind Click to get a better look at the injury.

“I would seriously prefer not to talk about it,” Click said, popping the collar of his shirt up to hide the burn. “Who are you going to the concert with?”

“Sir Margaret Ajeya,” Marlon said with a smirk. “But that was an easy one; everybody knows about her. Ask me another one.”

“Um,” Loren said, “what Shadowflame has the highest contract success ratio?”

“Trick question,” Marlon replied, smearing some styling cream over his hands. “There are several Shadowflames that have perfect contract success rates. The one who completed the most contracts successfully? Well, that’d be Alec Gainsborough himself.”

“Can you count the founder of the organization as a Shadowflame?” Loren asked.

“The Hall of Records does,” Marlon said as he worked the greasy cream into his hair. “Ask me another one.”

“Hmm,” Loren said. “Who’s the Shadowflame with the highest number of failed contracts before being decommissioned?”

“Alan Morganstern,” Paru’s voice came from outside of the suite.

“Hang on!” Alan said, fumbling with the buttons on his shirt.

“You, sir, are a lousy date,” Paru teased. “I should go ask Raye Courts-the-Shadows to accompany me to the concert.”

“He’s not going,” Alan said as he checked himself in the mirror. He saw a bit of shaving gel nestled in his ear and grabbed a towel to clean it off.

“A minor detail,” Paru replied. “Say, has that drama between your employees cleared up at all?”

“Don’t I wish,” Steve replied, laughing.

“How much longer, then?” Mike asked her.

“Oh, geez, I probably won’t be considered a Journeyman for at least two more years,” Steve replied. “I’ll start being able to carry weapons I’ve modified under Master’s supervision in under a year, though.”

“Are you planning to modify Polaris?”

“Once I’m certain that I won’t damage it,” Steve said.

“What will you call the modified pistol?”

“Team sexy,” Violet said with an expansive gesture.

To’mas shook his head. “Too plain. How about Inevitable Seduction?”

“Clunky,” Violet said.

“Oh,” To’mas said. “Before we get down to business, I promised that I would help a coworker of mine with something.”

“Hm?” Violet asked.

“My coworker Matt has a plan for tonight, and he’s calling in a few of us to help him pull it off.”

“Oh,” Violet said. “I think I know what this is. You guys are going to do a sting op on Creepy Don Stiles, right?”

“You bet your ass we are,” Matt said.

“Whad’ju say?” the gaunt, beady-eyed man next to him asked.

“Just answering a question,” Matt said. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Ain’t nobody there.” Creepy Don said. “You’re weird, man.”

“You have no idea,” Matt said. “You ready to go?”