Mireya made a point of not looking up at the top of the hotel building. It wouldn’t have been too strange if her eyes were up; she was just a person sitting on a bench at the Plaza of Claws, and these skyscrapers were just skyscrapers. But Cyrin was up there, scoping out the top floor of the hotel with their jetpack, and she didn’t want anyone following her gaze to them.
She busied herself with remaining seemingly idle and staying in her position that was deceptively nonchalant, covering what she was really doing. Her hands in her pockets were casual, but it hid that she was clutching her coil of wire. Her lowered head might have looked tired, or a little bit anti-social, but in reality, she was staring intently at the sidewalk between her feet. Mireya could leap up from the bench any moment she wanted and be ready to run, but because her pose was relaxed, none of her muscles appeared tense.
The curves and lines of letters that she’d been waiting for suddenly formed on the pavement in front of her, and Mireya hunched over further to read them. Cyrin hadn’t actually written any of them because it was Projection magic on the sidewalk, not pen tracing on paper, but the words appeared in their handwriting anyway. The message appeared in neat and narrow lettering, slanted to the right so as to look italicized, the tails on the letters swooping sharply over the city ground.
On the far side of the building now. A few people are currently up. Set watch to ten minutes.
Mireya finished reading, then causally shifted her foot over the Projection to cover it from sight. Under the guise of checking the time on her communicator, she set a timer for nine minutes and thirty seconds. She knew she’d need a little warning.
With that, Mireya stood up from the bench, quickly checking that the message had disappeared once she lifted her foot. She slipped through the hotel’s revolving doors.
The lobby was much warmer than outside, and she was glad it was time to start this part of the stakeout. The concierge was busy at the front desk with a couple who were openly arguing in front of her, and she could see the weariness on her face. Mireya paused by a rack of tourism pamphlets next to a coffee machine for clients, pretending to be interested in Crystal City’s Museum of Fine Arts while she stole glances at the scene.
The fighting couple were obviously wealthy customers, even for an upscale hotel. The man, looking like an executive in his expensive suit, was gesturing angrily and shouting at his girlfriend, who was blinking back tears as she clutched her white designer purse in front of her. Mireya didn’t catch what their argument was about, because the man turned away to go to the elevator soon after and left the young lady by the front desk, but she guessed they had a serious issue.
The lady dabbed at her eyes, pulling her fur coat tighter around herself as she whispered something to the concierge, who nodded sympathetically. She then made for the exit, walking past Mireya.
Mireya honestly felt a tiny bit bad stealing from her when her day was off to a bad start, even though she had to be very rich, but it needed doing. She stepped back from the pamphlet stand, mumbling a low apology as she bumped into the woman, her hand brushing against the zipper of the purse. The woman hardly seemed to notice, breathing out a shaky reassurance as she hurried out of the hotel. Mireya waited until she was gone, then checked the wallet in her hand, searching through credit cards and IDs until she found the keycard to a hotel room. She pressed it between her curled fingers and her palm, and with hardly a flicker of the nearest chandelier, the electromagnetic chip in the card was disabled with a pulse of power.
She tucked the museum pamphlet in a front pocket and went over to the concierge, smiling brightly. “Hi, can you help me with something?”
The concierge nodded. “Of course.”
“My keycard isn’t working,” Mireya said, holding up the card. She felt out the current in the wires plugged into the computer, imagined diverting the flow in one of them. “My purse has a magnet in the snap button, and I heard those can mess with the chip. Can you recharge it?”
“Yeah, that happens quite a bit with our customers’ purses,” the concierge agreed, taking the keycard from her and placing it on the charging pad, before clicking a few times on her computer screen. Mireya was relieved that she didn’t seem to notice there was no purse on her person. “It’s the price of fashion— oh.” She glanced down at the pad, tapping the card against it a few more times confusedly.
“Is it not working?” Mireya asked, who knew it wasn’t.
“It doesn’t seem to be,” the concierge said slowly. “I’m very sorry, I don’t know why it’s malfunctioning. Do you mind waiting here for a few minutes while I get it figured out?”
She would love that, actually. “Of course, take your time.”
The concierge headed behind a door behind the front desk. Mireya glanced back at the lobby behind her, then up at the security camera installed in the ceiling. She snapped her fingers by her side, and the camera sparked, its circuits fizzling out. With that, she slipped around the front desk, feeling a smile spread across her face.
Mireya didn’t know how long she’d have, so she got right to work on what she was looking for. The reservations list happened to be open, so she’d been fortunate that the concierge hadn’t had the time to ask for her room number or name. She scrolled through it, searching for Room 5100— the only room on the fifty-first floor.
“It’s the exclusive suite that takes up the hotel’s entire top floor,” Cyrin had explained to her half an hour before she’d sat down on the bench outside, over a morning cup of coffee at a place just across the plaza. One of the servers there had grimaced when they told him their names for the order and had muttered something about them being in the wrong mountains, so she didn’t think they’d be going back there. “I was surprised when Shane said that’s where they’re staying.”
“How exclusive?” Mireya had asked.
“Exclusive enough that my family’s never booked it.”
“And yet it doesn’t sound like it’s in high demand,” Mireya had noted. “Maybe it’s reserved. Government members, maybe?”
“There’s plenty of people who can pay more than the government for a hotel room,” Cyrin had said thoughtfully, stirring his coffee. “But that would explain why my family hasn’t stayed there. I wonder if they’ve tried.”
“Maybe they only let you stay there if your bloodline’s had Aphiran citizenship for more than five centuries. Like how this coffee tastes of microaggressions and over-roasted beans.”
Cyrin had laughed loudly, for the benefit of the glaring server standing by the coffee machines.
Mireya wasn’t seeing the reservation yet in her searching, but she kept herself from worrying by telling herself that the hotel was booked rather full. She scrolled through the 4600s rooms, the 4700s, the 4800s. The number of reservations got smaller with each floor, as the rooms got bigger in size— and more expensive. She sucked a breath through her teeth when she saw how much some people were paying for these rooms. It was hard to decide what disgusted her more, that the business was raking in these profits and swimming in it, or that the customers were so obscenely wealthy that an astronomical stay here wasn’t even a splurge for them.
There. The last hotel room on the list. Seven bedroom, four bathroom, balcony view, complimentary continental breakfast. No price listed, even though Mireya should have been looking at a five digit cost-per-night.
And the names of the five occupants were blocked out with a string of XXXXXs.