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Attachment Theory

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“Lasersweepingme.”

“Receptionistareacomputers.”

“Cashregisterkerchingkerching.”

“Firstaidstopperyourholes.”

The woman known professionally as the Lookout gritted her teeth in a very unprofessional manner. In her defense though, this whole job stank of unprofessionalism. Lacking two members of her team and the one member that she did have with her being the most irritating little psycho that they’d ever sprung from lockup. Although, for a while, he had been remarkably helpful and, dare she say, cooperative. Minimal sarcastic comments in that telegraphic way of his. Compliance with her begrudging requests for him to hack a camera there, a door here. Restraint that he had never displayed before, waiting for a room to clear of guards before he ran in to crack a safe, even if he had drummed his fingers the entire time he spent waiting. Restraint that seemed to have run out at last, because, as far as the Lookout could tell, the reason he was now lying incapacitated in front of one of the sculpture displays was because he had decided to charge through four lasers straight into an armed guard. When he could have, oh, she didn’t know, maybe actually done his job as a hacker and hacked the lasers?

“Suspiciousguardstaring.”

The Lookout rolled her eyes as she yanked on the bandage she was wrapping around her arm. “The front door was open, you know. You could have dodged outside instead of towards another guard.”

“Twentytwentyhindsight.”

She thought about telling him that foresight was what was necessary for jobs like this one, but thought better of it. She would just be wasting her breath and, in any case, comments like that were meant for after the job, not while they were both injured in the middle of a heist.

Neither of them said anything for a few moments, the Lookout because she was now concentrating on worming out a bullet that was partially buried in her other arm, and the Hacker, she presumed, because the pain of several bullets to the chest was kicking in at last and keeping him quiet. Or so she hoped.

“Anymonthnow.”

Of course, she couldn’t be that lucky. “Do you want me to stopper the holes in me or not? You were the one bleating about the first aid kit in here.”

“Bleedingtodeathhere.”

“I really doubt that. Quit whining, you wimp.”

That was the thing about plastic bullets; hurt like hell, took people down through sheer pain overload alone, but rarely left anyone bleeding to death. Luckily for them, none of the guards they’d had nasty encounters with so far had decided to flout regulations and use lethal bullets. Unluckily, this meant that the guards treated any intruders they saw as living practice targets. Sometimes, the day after a particularly chaotic job, she’d look in the mirror to find her whole back a mottled purple.

She sighed as the bullet came free. A jab of a syringe a few seconds later in the same spot and the sluggishness in her limbs began to dissipate. She considered the other syringe in the medical kit for a moment before dismissing it. She’d completed jobs before running on far more pain than she was in right now. Anyway, painkillers tended to make her sleepy.

“Newviruslatestmodel.”

“I know what I’m doing, ok?”

She had to resist the urge to rub it in his face when she was crouched next to him a minute later, a virus merrily hijacking the security laser in the opposite corner. Instead, she kept both eyes on the lobby and the display room, watching for patrolling guards. The guard behind her would’ve worried her but he seemed enamored by the statue before him. Something to do with the unrealistically spherical breasts carved from the marble maybe.

Only a few bullets had penetrated the Hacker’s skin, and even those were easy to dig out. Didn’t keep him from hissing and whining though, loudly enough that she had to look over her shoulder to reassure herself that the statue-sexual guard hadn’t heard.

“Shut up; you’re going to alert the guard behind us.”

“Canstillfeelpainduh.”

“It’s a paralysis agent, not an anesthetic. Duh. And you didn’t hear me griping while I was pulling bullets out of myself.”

“Cybergodsnotmeantformeatspace.”

“Will it get you to shut up if I give you this painkiller?”

“Hookmeupbabe.”

It did work to keep him quiet for a daily record of two minutes after he uncapped the needle and jammed it into his leg. By this point, all the bullets were out and she was tapping the anti-paralysis syringe to get rid of air bubbles. Irritating as the little nutjob might be, she didn’t want to find out what the Gentleman might do to her if she gave his precious IT warlock an embolism.

“Outoutbriefvirus.”

“You’ll be up before then. Unless you keep distracting me with your babbling.” Which wasn’t a valid conditional even as she said it because she was already pushing the plunger and sending the antiparalytic swirling into his bloodstream like his precious viruses did within an electrical system.

She began to get impatient, then concerned when he still didn’t move even after several seconds had passed. It should have been the exact same concoction she’d injected into herself earlier and that had worked just fine, fast-acting as always. “What’s wrong? Is it not—”

She found herself toppling back, catching herself on her palms (and damn it, that wasn’t funny; the floor was tiled and she’d slammed the heels of her hands hard against it to avoid falling flat on her back). The Hacker was grinning down at her, mostly the whites of his teeth (threecrownsandacanine) showing. “Kthanksseeyouonthestairs.” He turned and dashed headlong past a guard, who shouted and gave chase.

The Lookout resisted the urge to slap a smarting palm against her forehead. The laser in front of her was flickering to life and she knew the guard behind her was probably now looking past her to see what the commotion was. She ducked into nearby shrubbery before he could turn his gaze upon her.

If she rolled her eyes with a little less vehemence when the sound of an alarm rang out in the distance, it was probably the residual effects from being shot, dulling her senses.