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A slow chime of warning from his tablet drew him forward. One of the resistors on Allen’s suit wasn’t reading right. After adjusting it, Silas leaned back again, his thick arms crossed over his chest as he tried to hide his concern that Professor Milo lurked behind him. It made him feel as if he were on trial as well.

No one liked his theory that drafting time wasn’t moving back as much as it was sideways. He’d had to invent most of the instruments to gather his data, and the idea that Professor Milo might cut his funding before he had the chance to prove his theory was a real possibility. He’d been at it for six years and had nothing to show but a handful of gadgets. If not for the versatility of the slick-suits and light pistols, his funding would have been cut years ago.

The sensor on his tablet began pulsating again. Frowning, Silas toggled it back into normal range.

At the bar, Allen squinted through his thick black plastic safety glasses at one of the club’s cameras, his long face tight with irritation as he hit a button on his phone. Silas’s tablet dinged, and he thumbed the connection open. “What’s the deal?” Allen said, the music half a second off from what was thumping through the walls.

Silas fitted an earpiece and took his tablet off speaker. “I’m reading excessive feedback. You’re not feeling it?” he said softly.

Allen pushed the sleeve of his brightly patterned shirt up to show the phasing fabric of his slick-suit. Lanky and thin, he didn’t need to get his suits specially tailored—apart from shortening the hems an inch or two. But he doesn’t look as good in them, either, Silas thought smugly. Allen was too casual and scar-marked from countless BMX accidents to fit Opti’s old image of the polished, sophisticated agent, especially when next to his partner, Summer, who did. But that was probably why they’d fast-tracked him. And why they keep me in the labs, Silas thought, his mood tarnishing.

“Knock it off,” Allen complained, his knobby hands pushing his sleeve back down. “You keep phasing it up like that, you’re going to put my arm to sleep.”

Summer’s throaty voice eased from the tiny speaker as she slipped behind Allen and tousled his short black hair. “You mind getting off the air, Silas? We’re working here.”

“Hey, you called me.” Silas smiled as the connection ended, watching her through the monitor as she made her way to the dance floor, people moving either to get out of her way or to intercept her, depending upon what they thought their chances were. At the table across the room, Heidi and Karen finished their drinks fast. First on the scene did not translate into getting out with the take.

But Silas’s brow furrowed when he spotted another drafter/anchor team ease past the thick-armed bouncers and half-stoned coat-check girls. His gaze flicked to Professor Milo, and then he hit the icon for Summer’s phone. Almost instantly she answered, her dancing never faltering. “Summer. It’s a gang bang.”

Still slowly making her way to Karen and Heidi’s table, she scanned the club, finding Allen at the bar and nodding him closer. “Shit. Who?”

Silas studied the compact woman coming in and the dark man with the tightly trimmed beard beside her. “Beth and Ethan.” Three drafters on site? What are they thinking?

Professor Milo cleared his throat. Silas’s neck reddened, and he muttered, “What? I’m allowed. I’m their backup.”

The professor leaned forward, his tall, gaunt form looming over him. “Drafters and anchors don’t have backup,” he said as he jabbed Silas’s connection closed. “And you are not their handler. Interfere again, and they fail.”

Chances were good they were going to fail anyway. There were three teams, and only one would walk out with that box of chocolate and the highest grade. Peeved, Silas pushed himself back into the chair, ignoring the six sets of slick-suit data now coming in. Summer touched her ear to show him she’d lost contact before tucking her phone away and laughing at something the man dancing with her had said.

Allen finally reached her, and Summer pointed out Beth and Ethan with a head toss. Silas could tell the instant their eyes met when Allen’s lips curled. Beth and Ethan played without regard to convention or loyalty to any but themselves. The perfect agents.

Heidi and Karen’s biodata were elevated, and as Ethan and Beth began to force their way from the door and through the crowd, Karen grabbed the chocolate, shoving it down her front as Heidi pushed her to the back. All they had to do was get out and it was over. But Opti would never make it that easy.

Summer and Allen had split up, and Silas pushed closer to the monitors. He’d lost Beth and Ethan.

“Everyone down!” he heard faintly through the pulsating walls, and then a scream overshadowed the music.

“There!” Milo’s assistant pointed, and Silas watched through the monitor as Beth shot at the disco ball, sending the light beam ricocheting everywhere with a blinding flash.

Summer dropped. Heart in his throat, Silas looked at her slick-suit data. She was fine—simply getting out of the line of fire. Curling into a ball, she dodged the first flush of panicked, fleeing people as the music thundered. Ethan shoved people aside, trying for a clean shot, shouting in anger when Allen made a good hit and Ethan’s slick-suit flashed white. The tall man dropped, out of the game, paralyzed.

Livid, Beth grabbed her partner’s light pistol before diving out of the way, using a screaming woman as a shield as she made her way across the bar to the back, where a handful of people hammered on the locked back door, Heidi and Karen among them.

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