Ambrosine walked into the front office of Ames Engineering. The place always amused her on some deep level–it was a very industrial space, as you’d expect, and yet…it was infused with a very subtle sense of grace. Examples of work, from rifles to Imke’s bejeweled clockwork sculptures, were strategically placed about the room. It was part business, part art gallery, for even a display of conveyor belt controls had been made to look good.

And then there was the woman behind the desk, a dusky Norn lady whose clothing was an artful arrangement of colors and details that were just this side of too intricate to be real. Maybe? It could have been either, for the woman was both a skilled seamstress and a mesmer.

And office manager. Ingiridir was mostly an office manager these days, having set her ambitions on ruling Ames Engineering with a silk-clad iron fist. 

“Ambrosine!” Ingri stood and spread her arms…and then vanished, only to reappear next to her, enfolding the guardian in a hug. “Hello, dear.”

Used to this, Ambrosine simply hugged her back. “Is Imke free?”

Ingri glanced over her shoulder at a board the detailed the projects for the day. “I think she’s elbow deep in a clockwork monstrosity today. If I try to talk to her she’ll shoot me. I can take a message?”

“That’s fine. Tell her I need the usual, small load out, and want to float another idea by her.”

“The usual,” Ingri said dryly, quirking her finely arched eyebrows. “You know I have no idea what that is? Imke won’t even let me inventory the parts. It ruins the perfection of my bookkeeping and inventory system and drives me up the wall.”

“And so it shall remain,” Ambrosine said with an enigmatic smile. “Sorry, dear.”

Ingri narrowed her eyes, then walked back to her desk, muttering. “What do you want to pass on to Imke about this idea of yours?”

“Just that I have some friends I want to help with a problem, and I’d appreciate her assistance.”

Ingri wrote the note with perfectly legible haste, then leaned back in her chair to peer thoughtfully at Ambrosine again.

“Staring at me isn’t going to reveal my secrets.” She smiled, nodded, and walked back out.

———-

Ingri made all of Ambrosine’s Stupid Fancy Noble Clothing, so the woman was well aware that Something was up. Why else would you need clothes that you could fight in, with allowances for hidden weapons?

Ambrosine played it off as something to soothe her anxiety, but Ingiridr was a true daughter of Raven.

She could only hope that the woman knew when it dangerous to poke too deeply.

———-

The listening devices were delivered that afternoon. Ambrosine sent an invitation to Lady Zhang, who refused it, but slid in through the office window that evening.

“Why can’t you visit me like a normal person? One of these days you’ll do that and Jess will shoot you.”

The Canthan noble flipped back her hood and shrugged. “One, it’s boring. Two, I ditched an important party today because I had to infiltrate the house of another attendee. If I’d accepted your invitation and word had gotten back to them, there’d have been a huge kerfluffle because you’re not as important, blah blah. ” She slid into Ambrosine’s guest chair and smiled. “And I never sneak in here when Jess is home.”

Ambrosine shook her head, then slid the package across her desk. “These need to be placed in the pubic areas of the Dukas household, where the Dukas boys are likely to be. No need to place any in the servant areas.”

“They hardly have any servants left,” Xia murmured, then shrugged. She slid the package into one of her pouches. “How come you’re not doing this yourself, hmm? It’s your assignment.”

Ambrosine just rolled her eyes. “Thank you, Xia.”

Lady Zhang laughed. “You’re welcome!” She left the same way she came.

Ambrosine leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes.

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