Two hours before they were scheduled to break into the Council Hall, Treben Holkas and Kyla Vertrane were contacted by Verdek. It was the first time they’d heard from her since they first met her two weeks ago. They were staying in a rundown motel on the outskirts of the city. It was severely lacking in luxury, but it was clean and serviceable, and was far from the worst place Kyla had ever stayed in.
“You want us to WHAT?” Treben exclaimed in disbelief to the image of Verdek’s face floating in front of him.
“I want you to meet me before you begin your mission,” Verdek replied calmly, “Now, in fact. I’m transmitting coordinates to you.”
“But we only have two hours before we begin,” Treben said with exasperation, “We have things we need to do to get ready. We don’t have time to have a face-to-face meeting. Can’t you just send us the information?”
“No,” Verdek replied, a hint of anger evident in her otherwise even voice, “The information I have for you is too important to risk transmitting over the network. I need to give it to you in person.”
“Fine,” Treben said with a heavy sigh, “We’ll be there as soon as possible.” And then he severed the connection and turned to Kyla. “Well?”
“Let’s go,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. He looked at her with surprise.
“I thought you were the one that didn’t really want to do this job,” he said.
“So, this is the perfect opportunity to back out! When your employer starts messing with things at the last second, that’s a bad, bad sign. Something is going wrong on their end, I can guarantee it, and that can only mean bad things for us.”
“I don’t know, Treb,” Kyla said, shaking her head, “I just have this weird feeling that this is important for you, that all of this is going to turn out in a…strangely satisfying way.” He gave her a bemused look.
“Well, that was oddly vague and specific at the same time,” he said, “Does this have something to do with Vor Shen?” She shook her head again.
“I have no idea,” she replied, “Maybe. I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? We’ve heard all these rumors about a power struggle going on between Ventelin and Shen. It’s not farfetched to think that our employer is Vor Shen, is it?”
“No,” Treben said darkly, “it’s not.”
“What will you do if he is?” she asked, slightly anxious.
“Let’s hope we never find out,” Treben said with a scowl, “I want the money.” And with that, he stood up and left the room. Kyla jumped up and hurried after him.
They met with Verdek in a fancy restaurant in an upper class district of Grendemar, near the Council Hall. Even using the tram, it took them about an hour to get there, which meant that Treben was steaming mad by the time they got to Verdek’s table.
“Okay, so you’ve wasted most of our final prep time on this meeting already,” he said angrily as he sat down, “I sure hope what you say is important, because we’re gonna have to go straight to the Council Hall from here, and I’m not sure we’re ready. I’m sure you don’t care about our safety, but I bet your boss is gonna be pretty pissed if we fail to complete our mission because you had to have a last minute meeting to tell us something stupid.”
“I don’t do anything that is a waste of time, Mr. Holkas,” Verdek said coolly, “Part of what I have to say is that you will not be going to the Council Hall at all. There has been a change of plans. So don’t worry about losing out on preparation time. You will have all the time you need.” Treben glared at her, but he seemed at least somewhat mollified by this.
“You say that’s part of what you have to tell us,” Kyla said calmly, “What’s the rest?”
“Everything you need to know is on this tablet,” Verdek said, handing one to Kyla, “Where to go, when to go there, and how to get in. Memorize the information it contains, because in an hour, it will completely wipe itself.”
“Seems a little extreme, doesn’t it?” Treben said, crunching loudly on one of the appetizers that Verdek had ordered before they arrived.
“To you, perhaps,” Verdek said with a level gaze, “But to us, it is imperative that no one ever find out the truth about what you are about to do.”
“Fine, fine,” said Treben nonchalantly, “What else? Is that all you had to tell us?”
“No,” Verdek said, suddenly very intent, “There is one other thing.” Then she was silent, waiting until she was completely certain that she had Treben and Kyla’s full attention.
“Okay,” Treben said after a few moments, “Well, what is it?” Verdek gazed at him with surprising intensity.
“Whatever you do, you must carry this mission to completion,” she said, boring into him with her eyes, “Remember, once the target is eliminated, you will be obscenely rich. Wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. But if, for any reason, FOR ANY REASON AT ALL, you fail to complete this mission, not only will you forfeit your reward, but you two will be marked for death.” Treben and Verdek stared at each other, so intently that Kyla expected one or both of them to burst into flames.
“Are you saying there might be a reason I wouldn’t want to complete this mission?” Treben said slowly and carefully.
“Of course not,” Verdek said briskly, looking away from him suddenly, “I just wanted to make absolutely sure that you were aware of the risks and rewards involved.”
“I see,” Treben said, but it was obvious he wasn’t convinced.
“Well, you two have a lot of work to do, I’m sure,” Verdek said, rising from her seat, “I’ll just be going now. Help yourself to whatever you want. I’ve already told the proprietors to charge anything you order to my account.” And with that, she left.
To be continued…