Someone was tapping on the door. It was a soft, persistent sound that wove itself into Cassie’s jumbled dream of burning buildings, Kevorks, and chocolate chip cookies. From the other bed, Leila muttered a curse, pulled a sheet around herself, and padded to the door. Cassie sat up, still foggy-headed, but dimly aware of danger. She was about to call out for Leila to check who was knocking, but it was too late. Leila opened the door without looking out the peephole, then took a startled step back.
Julilla pushed her way into the room. “Good morning, ladies. Sorry to wake you up.”
Cassie tried to smooth her hair. “Is everything okay?”
“Sure. Well, sort of.” She came to the foot of Cassie’s bed. “I know it’s short notice, but there isn’t much time. I think I know who’s got the laptop and I was wondering if you could go with me to get it.”
“Go with you where?”
“Don’t worry about that right now. Just tell me if you can get away for the day.” She glanced at Leila. “You can hoe potatoes and whatever else it is she does around here, right? Some trade goods may come out of this. If all goes well, you’ll be compensated.”
“But why me?” Cassie asked. “I’m not a trained guard.”
“But you’re good in a tight spot, like when those kids attacked us on the way back from May’s. And more important, you’ve got tact. Most of the guards are in it for the glory, you know? They’re full of testosterone and just want to kick somebody’s ass.” She fixed Cassie with a steady look. “This isn’t that kind of job. It’s not likely we’ll need to fight anyone. It’s going to be all about subtlety.”
“Go ahead, if you want,” Leila offered. “I don’t mind covering your chores if maybe something good will come out of this.”
Cassie considered. It was an honor to be chosen for an important mission, and by Julilla, of all people, who had no patience for fools. But Galahad would be furious when he found out. Cassie thought back to his reaction on the day she accompanied May to her shop. If he thought she was taking risks then, he would think she was out of her mind now. But who was he to dictate what she did or didn’t do? Hadn’t she resolved not to center her hopes on him? “I’ll go. What’s the plan?”
Julilla’s eyes lit up with approval. “Wear something sturdy but that you can run or fight in, if you have to. Wear your Regents gauntlet, bring your pepper spray and meet me in the kitchen as soon as you can get down there. Sandra will give us an early breakfast.”
Cassie wanted to ask more, but Julilla was already moving toward the door.
“Be quiet, and try not to let anyone see you,” Julilla added, before she slipped into the hall. “Alex wants us to keep this mission off the books, in case it doesn’t work.”