Black Capes and Bodices

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“This has to be the silliest thing I’ve ever done,” Sparrow said, tugging up on her bodice. She knew it fit properly, but between the low cut and the bare shoulders, she felt like it was going to fall off at any second.

Cappy laughed. “Everything you say just shows what a rookie you are.”

“Also that she’s never been to a ren fair before,” Eyes said. He finished his sewing, and held the finished product out to Cappy. “This should finish the outfit quite nicely.”

Cappy draped the black cape over his shoulders, and nodded appreciatively at his reflection in the mirror. He was wearing black armor, with a black tunic over that. The blood-red lion on his chest was the only color. Cappy always looked like a thug, but this brought an entirely new level of danger to him.

At the same time, seeing him without his trademark baseball cap somehow made him seem less menacing at the same time.

Eyes was wearing his usual jeans and t-shirt, but a regal looking ensemble sat on a dressing dummy in the corner.

Sparrow adjusted her dress again. “I’m surprised Juggler’s not playing the lord.”

“I almost wish he was,” Eyes groaned. “Sewing all those bells on his jester’s costume is going to be a pain. Although I do have to admire hiding the infamous Juggler as a juggler.”

Cappy shrugged. “He always gives himself the lower roles when he can. The butler, the janitor, the fool. He likes being able to stand in the middle of things without anyone noticing.”

“It’s why he gets along with Mist so well,” Eyes said, pulling some bright green and red fabrics over to him. “She loves to be the center of attention.”

“Before you start that,” Sparrow said, pulling on her bodice again. “Does this have to be so low-cut?”

“Look, we need you to be as distracting as you can be,” Eyes said with a smirk, “and you’re not giving me a lot to work with. Honestly, with how some women dress at these things, I’m not sure I cut it low enough.”

Her cheeks flushed. “If you cut it any lower, it’d fall off for sure! No!” she added, when Cappy and Eyes exchanged glances.

“It would be distracting,” Cappy said, as if this were a reasonable suggestion.

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Grifting 101

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“Look,” Cappy said, “we don’t have time to babysit you. You wanted on this crew, that means you pull your weight.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Eyes added with a grin. “You weigh, what, a hundred pounds, soaking wet?”

Sparrow flushed, but stood her ground. She’d learned that Eyes’s jabs was half-joking when he teased her, and the other half was a test.

“I’d kick you, if you weren’t in a wheelchair,” she snapped.

Eyes’s grin only grew. “That’s discrimination.”

“Can it,” Juggler said. The crew of criminals looked down the table to where the boss sat. “Cappy’s right, Sparrow. You sought us out, you asked to join us.”

“Because you needed a hacker!” she protested.

“Field hacker,” Eyes corrected.

She gave him a ‘not now’ look. “I’m not an actress.”

Juggler gave her a compassionate look. His hair was graying, but a few streaks of brown stubbornly remained. If you met him on the street, you’d think he was just a friendly old man. No one would guess he was infamous for pulling off some of the most complicated heists in the last few decades.

“I’m not asking you to perform Macbeth, Sparrow, but I told you, I need my crew to be versatile. You just need to flirt with the mark. Get him to ask you out.”

“I’m not… I don’t have a lot of experience with flirting.”

Cappy groaned. “We should just hire Mist.”

Juggler shook his head. “Mist is too good. He’d never believe someone like her was interested in him.” Turning back to Sparrow, he added, “Just try your best, and you’ll be fine. We want him to think of you as a kindred spirit. A little awkwardness will only help seal the deal. Eyes, go over it with her.”

Eyes pressed a few keys on the computer built into his chair, then rotated the screen so she could see a picture of their mark. “This is Johnny Doyle. Started out with Sarah Aaron – yes, of Aaron Solutions. They had ‘creative differences’ about ten years ago and split. Landwave Software has been trailing in Aaron Solutions’ shadow ever since. This is a major sore spot for Doyle.

“He’s a romantic, too. Wants to find love, and doesn’t want to use his money to do it, either. He’s hit up just about every dating site out there. Lots of first dates, very few second ones.”

“Which is why you’re perfect for the job, Sparrow,” Juggler said. “You’re cute enough to stroke his ego, and nerdy enough for him to think you’re ‘the one.’”

Cappy suddenly started laughing. Everyone turned to face him. Smiling, he held up a picture of Sarah Aaron.

“Doesn’t she look a bit like Sparrow here? We dye her hair red, and Doyle won’t be able to resist her.”

Staring at Fenrir

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“Are you telling me you can’t do it?” Cappy said.

“I’m not saying that,” Sparrow replied. “I’m just-”

Cappy cut her off. “It sounds like you’re telling me you can’t do it.”

“I can do it,” she hissed. It was all she could do to keep herself at yelling.

“Good,” the large man said, “Because the only reason you’re on the team is that you said you could do it.”

“I just can’t do it from here,” she said.

“If you-” Cappy’s voice started to rise, but he caught himself. “If you can’t do it from here, where the hell can you do it?”

Eyes’s voice chirped in on the radio. “Guard coming. Gonna have to switch back to live feed in three. Make like shadows.”

Sparrow slid the cover panel back into place and raced for the hiding spot Eyes had found for her earlier – a small spot behind a statue of Odin, and a display of viking weaponry. She felt completely exposed, but Eyes assured her that this was the only blind spot on the security cameras. He took a bit too much delight in pointing out that it was only the fact that she was so small that let her hide there.

A circle of light moved slowly across the far wall, the various displays casting odd shadows on it. It lingered on the monstrous stone wolf frozen mid-snarl that sat in the middle of the room.

After what seemed like eternity, the guard left the room.

“Putting the cameras back on loop in three, two, one. You are now free to move about the cabin.”

“Thanks, Eyes,” she said, walking back to the statue of Fenrir.

“So where can you do it from?” Cappy said from right behind her. She jumped, but managed to suppress a shout.

“Don’t do that!” she hissed. She was not meant for field work. Her heart was beating almost painfully after that scare. As she forced herself to calm down, a thought dawned on her. “Where the hell did you manage to hide?”

Cappy smiled. “Trade secret.” The smile vanished. “Answer the question.”

She opened the cover panel on Fenrir’s podium again. “You see this?” she said, pointing to the circuit board inside.

“Skip to the part where you tell me why you can’t shut it off.”

“It’s a Varia Inc. 273 Watchman.”

“Still waiting.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s what’s controlling the motion sensor. It’s one of the most sensitive control chips out there. We tamper with it at all, and the alarms go off.”

“So you can’t do it,” Cappy said.

“I can’t disable the Watchman, no. I’ll need to hack the computer that’s receiving the data.”

“You want to break into the security room?” Cappy said. “That’s… that’s a different heist altogether. And it’s not likely to be bloodless.” He sighed. “Eyes, what’s your take?”

“Hold on a sec…” Eyes’s voice said in their ears. “It’s doable, but it’s not an off-the-cuff job. Pull out. We’ll talk to our employers and figure out a new vector.”

“Might have to talk about our rates,” Cappy growled. “This Watchman thing sounds like overkill for a statue, no matter how old it is. There’s more going on than we’re being told, and I don’t like it.”

“Amen to that,” Ears said. “Make sure your ghosts on the way out. If they get any hint that you were there, we won’t get another shot at this.”

Sparrow was looking at the statue. “Even if we shut off the motion sensor, how were you going to get this out?”

“You make sure you can shut down the security computer, and you might get to find out.”