Chapter 2, Part 5

“Boy, thanks for the vote of confidence,” Alessandra replied, rolling her eyes.

“Better than if he said he thought it would definitely fail,” said Nieshata, smirking and crossing her arms across her chest. She was a short, lithe woman with close-cropped mousy brown hair and olive colored skin. She had a small scar slashing down her left cheek, and another one that just clipped the edge of her right eyebrow. She was exceptionally good at bypassing the various security systems that the mercenary clans set up to defend their territory. Automated turrets, alarms, nerfota, lumoss, that sort of thing.

“The last thing we want is for our leader to suffer a lack of confidence twelve hours before the job starts,” said Breska with a frown. He was a towering wall of a man, with black skin, a shaved head, and a shaggy beard that went down to his waist. He was a quiet, serious man who was exceptionally good at beating up mercenaries, which was the main reason Alessandra wanted him on her team, but he was also a lot smarter than he looked as well. Several of the best parts of her plan had come from him.

“Breska, Alessandra couldn’t suffer from a lack of confidence if she tried,” Veloran said with a grin, leaning forward. She had spiky blond hair, and was almost as tall as Alessandra, but much curvier. She had a perpetual gleam in her blue eyes, as if she was constantly on the lookout for someone to seduce, but Alessandra knew that it, like most aspects of her personality, was mostly an act. She was also fantastically good at deception and disguise.

“I think I’m offended by that,” Alessandra said with an amused expression on her face

“You’re offended because Veloran thinks you’re confident?” Ahlen asked with one eyebrow raised. She was short, even shorter than Nieshata, and skinny rather than slim, with long, curly black hair and skin that was almost as dark as Breska’s. Her demeanor was almost as serious as his, too, but every once in awhile she’d say something that would make people fall over from laughing so hard. Although, even then, she wouldn’t crack a smile. She was a very good lockpick, but, as evidenced by the fact she was Alessandra’s third pick, not the best lockpick in Clan Mekoval. She would be good enough for this job, though. Or so Alessandra hoped.

“If she was offended, Veloran would be dead right now,” Nieshata said in a matter-of-fact voice. Veloran only grinned wider.

“Bring it on, chiela,” she said, whipping out a knife and twirling it between her fingers. Alessandra just rolled her eyes. Veloran was a great thief, but she could be excessively showy sometimes.

“Who’s being overconfident now?” Alessandra asked. Veloran grinned even wider, but there was a feral cast in her eyes now.

“Now, now, ladies,” said Mikaelo soothingly. “Let’s save our aggression for Clan Veldisa, shall we?”

“Ah, Mikaelo,” Breska said in his deep, soothing voice. “Always the peacemaker, aren’t you?”

“Somebody has to do that around here,” Mikaelo said with a shrug and a wink. Ahlen snorted, and Nieshata shook her head. Alessandra and Veloran glared at each for a moment, and then Alessandra smiled.

“Mikaelo’s got a good point,” she said. “We’ve got a chance to do something truly spectacular, something that will make us known throughout the whole city. Let’s not mess it up by fighting amongst ourselves, yeah? We’ve got a good plan here, so let’s go get some sleep and be ready to move out as soon as the sun goes down.” Veloran gave her a look that was halfway between a grimace and a grin, and then the knife in her hand disappeared and she stood up.

“I’m not sure I want to be known throughout the whole city,” she said. “Kinda bad for thieving business, if everyone know who you are. But I do want to be rich, and there ain’t no better way to get rich as a thief than to rob the Vanmorzen manor. So yeah, let’s do it.” She gave her teammates a dazzling grin, winked, and then turned and strolled down the hallway. Alessandra and the rest of her team watched her go, and then Alessandra shook her head and turned back to the rest of them.

“If I didn’t need her for this job, I think I would have challenged her right then and there,” she said with a frown. “That woman is crazy, and sometimes I wonder if she’s more of a liability than an asset.”

“Maybe,” Ahlen said, mirroring Alessandra’s frown. “Too bad she’s so good at what she does.”

“Let’s be fair, though,” Breska said. “We’re all a little bit crazy. Everybody in this city is at least a little bit crazy.”

“How would we know that?” Nieshata asked, a puzzled frown on her face. “Nobody has left Serotopolis for a thousand years, or so they say? What if the rest of the world is just as terrible as this city is? It must be, right? They say it’s infested with demons, and the barrier is the only thing that keeps them out.”

“I always wonder about that,” Mikaelo said thoughtfully. “The Order of Sunaru fights the demons, but what does that entail, if they’re in the city, the demons are outside the barrier, and nobody can pass through the barrier?”

“I’m not interested in wondering what the Order of Sunaru does or how they do it,” Alessandra said firmly. “All I care about right now is getting a fat haul from the Vanmorzen manor. Somehow I doubt the Order will have any interest in what we do there.” There was general agreement around the table at that. “Okay, team, let’s go get some rest. We’ll meet in Vayer Square at sundown.” Everyone agreed, and they began getting up and departing for their own rooms. Alessandra gathered up the plans and maps and notes spread out on the table, and smiled as she did so. This was really happening. Tonight would be a night that she would never forget, for as long as she lived.

To be continued…

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