Syndicate Files: The Sister - Part 2

When it comes to poker, my skills just about extend to knowing how much money I'm about to lose in the five seconds before I lose it. If Captain Siarente Ross was going to give a convincing impression of a high-roller in the highest-stakes game on the station, she was going to need help from someone besides me.

And that was just for starters. Getting into the game, not getting rumbled in the first hand, those were the easiest parts of the whole scheme.

I needed experts.

Ydet is a professional thief. A specialist. She could probably steal the ears off the Rabbit, but the poker game only had one way in: the front door.

Auvy is an expert in lots of things, though I think sometimes mainly in making me scramble. I happened to know she was a damn good poker player too.

I can't say the thought of introducing Auvy to my new client didn't cause me a twinge of anxiety. As for adding Ydet to the mix ... well, I guess sometimes I'm just a glutton for punishment.

I had a stiff drink and made the calls.

My office was crowded with Auvy, Ydet, Siarente and her bodyguard all in there, and not just cause it was a storage closet before I rented it. Four women, all of them blonde - even Auvy, this week - all of them as different as could be.

Ydet, with her wide smile and her honey-colored hair pulled back in a ponytail was the kind of blonde you played stick-ball with on the rec-deck, in your dreams anyway.

The bodyguard - Neve, her name was - was the sort of dirty white-blonde that looked like ice in the 'cycler: she was cold and hard and she'd been around.

Siarente Ross was what I always thought of as a default blonde - with her soft blue eyes and her gentle voice, she would have been blonde even if her hair color had been black as the space between the stars.

And Auvy, well ... today Auvy had her hair a shade of gold so rich it made Siarente's earrings look cheap and fake and a jacket in a lustrous red with a shimmer of the same tone. She looked like a million syns and maybe a million sins, too.

I had the schematics for the place the game was held spread out on my desk, courtesy of Sami, but I was the only one looking at them. Ydet and Auvy were giving each other the kind of polite smiles that make a wise man come up with a reason to be elsewhere, the pilot's bodyguard was studying each of them with flat-eyed professionalism and Siarente was looking from one to the other and then at me with knowing expression that made me even more nervous than Auvy and Ydet did.

I cleared my throat. "So. Getting into the HQ is easy enough, but to get into the Table we'll need the Colonel's invitation. They take their security seriously inside - weapons checked at the door, scans to make sure, auto-turrets to take care of anyone who tries to start any trouble; no surprise given the mix they get."

Auvy spoke up, "So, how are we going to get an invitation?"

"Well." I picked up my glass and realized it was empty. "That part I haven't exactly worked out yet. We can go down there and do some recon though. See if there's a way. We'll have to get one somehow, though, unless you wanna try and mug Mavare in the corridor on his way there."

Ydet stretched out her shapely legs and then curled up in her chair like a cat - or the cat-burglar she was. "Remind me again why it's such a good idea to pick the most tightly-guarded social gathering in Syndicate for this little heist?"

"Security might be tight at the game but it's tighter where Mavare spends the rest of his time," I said.

Ydet snorted. "Your lack of faith hurts my feelings, Rory."

"I'm not a religious man. And I'm sure you could get in - "

"Oh, I'm sure Ydet has no problems getting into gangster's bedrooms," Auvy said.

"And no problem getting out again," Ydet said, and smiled. "Unlike some."

Auvy drew breath to reply but before she got a word out Siarente leaned forward. "Is that jacket a Ceverette?" she asked Auvy. "It looks like his new line but I don't think I saw anything that nice at the show."

All I know about clothes is that it's a good idea to tell Auvy how good she's looking in whatever she's wearing, which isn't hard to remember since she always looks good, but the name Ceverette seemed to work as some kind of code. Auvy half-boasted, half-admitted that the jacket was her own design and not the work of a Federation fashion house and Siarente widened her eyes in what seemed to be genuine admiration and asked a half-dozen questions about seams and facing that had me mystified.

Ydet shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes and leaned forward to study the plan. "So why aren't we hitting this guy's crib?"

"Because the only time Mavare takes off his little love-token is when he has to," Sami piped up from my NEOCOM. Right at that moment, she sounded blonde, too: the kind of blonde who'll promise a man the world and leave him flat broke in the gutter - and grateful for it. "Believe me, the hours I've spent wandering around in his surveillance system. The things I'm seen. Sometimes deleting just isn't enough. Anyway, the thing about poker games with high stakes ... they tend to be pretty strict about cheating. Especially the Colonel's Table. High quality comms jamming, for example, although nothing that'd cause me trouble. And they don't like giving people the chance to mark the cards. You know, like ... with a ring."

Ydet nodded. "So we go in as what, the girl's staff?"

"Me and the bodyguard will be flunkies," I said. "But you'll need the chance to slip away and break into the cloakroom. You'll be the bored girlfriend."

Ydet glanced back at Siarente. "Girlfriend, sure. Bored?" She gave me a wink. "That might take more acting."

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