the smuggler’s bible

Nor

Nor steps out of the elevator flanked by his staff. Their heels click in unison on the scuffed grey tile of the acceess corridor.

“Sweep?”

“Cameras, but only the standard security net, nothing targeted. They’re being extremely polite.”

“It will have occurred to the tabellarius that his administrative council recently expended great sums of blood and treasure, all to be the ones in charge of an immensely fucked up situation.”

The door to the garage slides open as they approach. The cars are waiting in a neat black line. “And anyway,” Nor says, “a little courtesy doesn’t cost a thing.”

Zvonomir

Zvonomir waits in his office until the other relevant parties have arrived and are seated, then gives it five more minutes before making his own entrance. It’s petty, yes, but the delay will save time later. They’d almost certainly become suspicious if he didn’t try some sort of power play.

The meeting is in a simple annex conference room—and decidedly not on the filed itinerary. Three men in crisp black suits are waiting. One, with a sweep of dark grey hair and a grim expression, jumps protocol slightly.

“Tabellarius, thank you for taking this seriously,” he says. “I’m Nor.”

Nor

Nor descends from the plaza and climbs into a sleek black car. Someone hands him a drink.

“Well, is it as bad as it sounds?”

“A real fuck up. Best in class.”

“Did we lose anything? Irreplaceable, I mean.”

“We had a warning, although it barely qualified as such. Some of our people were just sprinting out the back when they knocked the door off its hinges.”

There is a pause. Ice clinks in a glass. “So, regarding our exposure—”

“They have it all, or near enough. Assume from this point on that we’re all playing with the same hand.”

Nor

Nor presses his thumb to the security plate and takes a deep breath while the lockbox’s vacuum seals disengage. He pauses with his hand on the latch.

“Was it sterilized?”

“Of course.”

“Properly, I mean.”

“Yes, very thoroughly.”

Nor pushes back the lid, stares for a moment and lets it fall shut.

“How are they? The ones who brought it back?”

“A few might pull through. It’s touch and go. They bought us some time, though. Just a little at least.”

The seals hiss sharply and tighten as Nor slides the box away. “Worth it,” he says, “to be ahead.”