Ruby Red 8

She was only sixteen and already wishing for the good old days when thieving was easier.  Part of it was new security like these pressure alarms and part of it was that as you went after bigger scores you had to face greater risks.  Reaching into yet another pouch among the dozens that lined her belt and bandolier, Dido pulled out two odd looking contraptions.  Both had sharp looking needles at the end of thin tubes, but one ended in a hand sized air bladder and the second in a strange dial that looked kind of like a clock.

The way the pressure alarms worked, as explained by her brother, was there was a rubber balloon filled with a certain air pressure right behind the hinge.  If the door was opened before the alarm was deactivated, a lever on the hinge would press on the balloon, increasing the pressure and setting it off.  If the balloon was punctured and the pressure dropped too low, it also set off the alarm.  Judging by all the tubes, this one was very sensitive.

It took a few moments to sort out the real hoses from the decoys, even though Bull had explained exactly what to look for.  Sticking the first needle into the main tube right where it left the balloon, the needle on the dial jumped up.  That showed the pressure.  Positioning the dial where she could easily see it, Dido took a deep breath and stuck in the second needle.  As soon as it was in, she gave a half squeeze on the air bladder to keep the pressure the same despite the two new tubes connected.  After that it was a matter of tying off the main tube and pumping or releasing air to keep the pressure constant.  It sounded easy, but it took almost three minutes and her brow was sweating by the end.  As she pulled out each needle, she put a little square of wax paper over the holes.  The paper had thick grease, almost like jelly, covering one side.  That would keep any air from escaping, at least for the time being.

Now that the alarm was disabled, Dido put the wooden panel back into place.  A quick look down either corner showed one of the guards sitting at the other end of the third floor, his head drooping onto his chest.  Now she could focus her undivided attention on the lock.  She was equal parts scared and eager.  She’d never picked a lock this complicated, but she was ready to try.  Two tension wrenches, three picks, a rubber band, and four minutes later and all the tumblers were set.  Dido’s chest puffed out a little.  She’d just opened a lock within a lock while holding up a spring loaded tamperproof plate.  For as long as she could remember, her favorite past time had been picking her neighbor’s locks.  Some had been more understanding than others.

As she reached for the doorknob, her hand hung in midair.  Something was stopping her.  Even though it had been quite difficult getting this far, something was telling her it’d still been too easy.  Without quite knowing why, Dido grabbed the knob with two fingers and gently turned.  The click of the latch releasing was echoed by a needle that shot out of a nearly invisible hole in the ornately worked bronze handle.  Long and thin, the needle had a barely detectable greasy sheen.  Dido swallowed hard.  There were poisons that could kill in less than ten heartbeats and the needle was within an inch of her forearm.  If she hadn’t grabbed it from the side with only two fingers, the needle probably would’ve gone right through her hand.

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