“…no, I don’t think so. You’re already here, so we might as well do this now.”

“Seriously,” Rin blurted, “how the fuck did you just do that with your mouth-“

“The good news,” Khoura continued right over her, “is that the two of you are no longer on standby.

“About bloody time,” Barrach muttered under their breath.

“The bad news is that circumstances are significantly different than they were believed to be two months ago, which means that certain operational decisions we now know to be… sub-optimal.”

“…such as?” Rin asked warily.

Khoura sighed. “Primarily, to let the aftermath of the school incident lie. Under normal circumstances, it would have resolved itself quite handily, but- well, I’m sure you can guess by this point. The Middleground will be doing a circuit of the border, something of an all-hands-on-deck situation-“

“Which means you’re throwing us at the problem cause we’re all you can spare,” Barrach finished. “That about right?”

“About, yes.”

Barrach clicked their tongue. “Wonderful. I do so adore being hired as a scryer and then end up doing grunt work instead.” At Khoura’s single arched eyebrow, they immediately backed down, raising their hands defensively. “Sorry, sorry. Yes sir, three bags full, sir.”

“‘How high’ is also acceptable,” Khoura replied without missing a beat. “But yes, while I continue to fix the mess my wastrel of a predecessor left behind, you will be recovering our three suspects-at-large.” She held out her hand, palm upright. “Seston, Auclair, and… let’s designate this one Fulana, for now.” Three pictures appeared above her hand as she said the names, floating in the air like holograms with the faintest purple tint to them.

The first two were familiar; the identification photo for Auclair that had been provided by The Employers That Rin Wasn’t Allowed To Know The Name Of, and Seston’s cropped passport photo. The third was much poorer quality, as if taken from a distance and zoomed in, and wasn’t detailed enough to make out more than white hair, brown skin and a yellow raincoat. 

“Fulana?” Barrach asked, saving Rin the embarrassment of having to do so. “I thought they hadn’t been identified?”

“Correct,” Khoura said, and utterly failed to elaborate. “I won’t sugarcoat it; two months leaves an awfully cold trail.”

“It’s the job, ma’am,” Rin said, and Khoura favoured her with a small smile.

“It is indeed. Anticipating something like this eventuality, I have retained the services of a more experienced individual, but unfortunately, circumstances dictate that they can’t enter the country for a few hours at a time, so what assistance they can offer is limited, and will be mostly remote.” She gestured, and there was a card in her hand.

“‘Dira,” Coleridge sighed.

“Priorities, dear,” Khoura replied. She handed the card over to Rin, who glanced down at the blocky, almost typewriter-esque penmanship. It read “Cassius Fallow” and then what looked like a radio frequency. 

“I’ll make sure she knows to expect your call, but you’ll have to make contact yourself. Stop by the quartermaster on your way out, requisition two comms- actually, no.”

“Indira,” Coleridge said admonishingly, pre-empting Khoura by barely a second as the doctor gestured again and was suddenly holding two small comm devices, along with a small but bulky book. 


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