Home > Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy #1)(4)

Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy #1)(4)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

   But there were upsides, too. A facility with items is a tremendous boon if you’re looking to steal those items. And it meant Sancia was phenomenally talented at scaling walls, navigating dark passageways, and picking locks—because picking locks is easy if the lock is actually telling you how to pick it.

   The one thing she tried hard not to think about was where her talents came from. For Sancia had gotten her abilities in the same place she’d gotten the lurid white scar that ran down the right side of her skull, the scar that burned hot whenever she overextended her talents.

   Sancia did not exactly like her talents: they were as restrictive and punishing as they were powerful. But they’d helped her stay alive. And tonight, hopefully, they would make her rich.

 

* * *

 

 

   The next step was the Fernezzi complex, a nine story building across from the Tevanni waterfront. It was an old structure, built for customs officers and brokers to manage their accounts back before the merchant houses took over almost all of Tevanne’s trade. But its age and ornate designs were useful for Sancia, offering many sturdy handholds.

   It says something, she thought, grunting as she climbed, that scaling this big goddamn building is the easiest part of this job.

   Finally she came to the roof. She gripped the granite cornices, clambered onto the top of the building, ran to the western side, and looked out, panting with exhaustion.

   Below her was a wide bay, a bridge crossing it, and, on the other side, the Tevanni waterfront. Huge carriages trundled across the bridge, their tops quaking on the wet cobblestones. Almost all of them were certainly merchant house carriages, carrying goods back and forth from the foundries.

       One of the carriages should be the one she’d marked with the guiding plate. I scrumming well hope so, she thought. Otherwise I hauled my stupid ass through a river of shit and up a building for no damned reason at all.

   For ages the waterfront had been as corrupt and dangerous as any other part of Tevanne that wasn’t under direct control of the merchant houses—which was to say, incredibly, flagrantly, unbelievably corrupt. But a few months ago they’d gone and hired some hero from the Enlightenment Wars, and he’d booted out all the crooks, hired a bunch of professional guards, and installed security wards all over the waterfront—including scrived, defensive walls, just like those at the merchant houses, which wouldn’t let you in or out without the proper identification.

   Suddenly it’d become difficult to do illegal things on the waterfront. Which was quite inconvenient for Sancia. So she’d needed to find an alternate way into the waterfront for her job tonight.

   She kneeled, unbuttoned a pouch on her chest, and took out what was likely her most important tool of the night. It looked like a roll of cloth, but as she unfolded it, it gained a somewhat cuplike shape.

   When she was finished, Sancia looked at the little black parachute lying on the rooftop.

   “This is going to kill me, isn’t it?” she said.

   She took out the final piece of the parachute: a telescoping steel rod. Set into the ends of this rod were two small, scrived plates—she could hear them chanting and whispering in her head. Like all scrived devices, she had no idea what they were saying, but her black-market contacts had given her strict instructions on how all this would work.

   It’s a two-part system, Claudia had told her. You stick the guidance plate to the thing you want to go to. The guidance plate then says to the plates in the rod, “Hey, I know you think you’re your own thing, but you’re actually part of this thing that I’m attached to—so you need to get over here and be part of it, fast.” And the rod says, “Really? Oh gosh, what am I doing all the way over here? I need to go be a part of this other thing right away!” And when you hit the switch, it does. Really, really fast.

       Sancia was vaguely familiar with this scriving technique. It was a version of the method the merchant houses used to stick bricks and other construction materials together, duping them into thinking they were all one object. But no one tried to use this method over distances—it was considered unstable to the point of being useless, and there were far safer methods of locomotion available.

   But those methods were expensive. Too expensive for Sancia.

   And the parachute keeps me from falling, Sancia had said when Claudia was done explaining it all.

   Uh, no, Claudia had said. The parachute slows it down. Like I told you—this thing is going to go really, really fast. So you’re going to want to be high up when you turn it on. Just make sure the guidance plate is actually where you need it to be, and nothing’s blocking your path. Use the test piece first. If it’s all lined up, turn on the rod and go.

   Sancia reached into yet another pocket and pulled out a small glass jar. In this glass jar was a bronze coin, and inscribed on this coin were sigils similar to the ones on the parachute rod.

   She squinted at the coin. It was stuck firmly to the side of the glass facing the waterfront. She turned the glass over, and, as if magnetized, the coin zipped across the jar and stuck itself to the other side with a tinny tink!—again, the side facing the waterfront.

   If this thing is attracted to the guiding plate, she thought, and if the guiding plate is on the carriage, then it means the carriage is at the waterfront. So I’m good.

   She paused. Probably. Maybe.

   She hesitated for a long time. “Shit,” she muttered.

   Sancia hated this sort of thing. The logic behind scriving always seemed so stupidly simple—barely logic at all, really. But then, scriving more or less bent reality, or at least confused it.

   She put the jar away and threaded the rod through the tapered end of the parachute.

   Just think of what Sark told you, she thought. Just think of that number—twenty thousand duvots.

   Enough money to fix herself. To make herself normal.

   Sancia hit a lever on the side of the rod and jumped off the roof.

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