35 word pitch: Cecile cracks people for secrets. Clare cracks computer encryption for information. Separated by a time and world, the two hackers must unite or watch a man playing creator rewrite the code of humanity.
She’s not going to make it.
That’s what I think as I watchGia leap from tower to tower through my telescope. Like a squirrel, she’s fleet-footed and quick, but she can’t buy back the time that she lost while securing the files. It’s not exactly her fault—none of us had expected the baron to plant explosives in his archives—but it does mean that flocks of patrolmen have already arrived. Clad in their usual head-to-toe black, they gather around the rubble in the middle of the cobblestoned street, under the gaping hole in the mansion’s side where the archives used to be. They caw at Gia, waving their batons.
Gia pays them no heed. She’s too focused on landing her jumps with artistry. It’s all a show for her.
I collapse my telescope, flatten myself against the wall of my dark alleyway, and take a deep breath. Coming into the scene as a Walker is easy enough, but my clothes stick to my skin. I reach for my signaling mirrors and flash them once. The light lances through the muggy heat and splashes onto the roof, innocuous enough to be passed off as a sun glare.
Gia slides down the sloped roof and scales the brick walls.
I lose no time in stepping out of my alleyway. The crowd ingests me, pushes and shoves concealing my deliberate path toward Gia’s landing location. I sacrifice speed for cover. The patrolmen beat me to the spot, but Gia adjusts her course down the next five stories, bringing herself closer to where I am. She hits the ground running
“Heavens,” comes a young lady’s voice from next to me. “You’d think that little thing is one of the Cardinal Order.”
“If such an order existed,” I say without taking my eyes off Gia, “then it’s quite unlikely they’ve avoided detection for so long.”
In trying to keep my high-class accent in place, my tone comes out unintentionally stern.
“Why, yes, of course,” says the lady, sounding affronted. “I never said otherwise.”
I don’t get the chance to reply because at that moment, Gia barrels into me. Upon impact, she grabs the collar of my trench coat.
It only takes a second.
She stuffs the information into the inside of my jacket. Just like that, paper to jacket, and we’ve won again.
There’s only one problem. Gia’s underestimated her force, and when she sprints off, I don’t get the chance to right myself before I go sprawling onto the asphalt. My hands come out late, too busy hiding the documents in my jacket. Pain rocks far back into my jawbone.
Don’t take note of me, I pray as I grit my teeth and pull myself to my feet.
The lady beside me screams. I know without looking at the asphalt that part of my chin, both real and fake, has decided to stay on the ground.