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‘Sorry, Your Majesty,’ he says, grinning.
When we reach the top, I duck into the studio, half expecting Loricel to be sitting there, but it’s empty. Motioning for Jost to join me, I move to the loom and pull out the digifile.
‘What are you doing?’ he asks, watching over my shoulder.
‘I learned a new trick,’ I tell him.
The piece of the compound flows gracefully onto the loom, and I turn to Jost to gauge his reaction. ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’
‘What?’ he asks, frowning.
‘The mantle,’ I say, running my finger along the weave.
‘I can’t see anything,’ he admits sheepishly.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ he stops me. ‘This is your area of expertise.’
I turn my attention to the section on the loom and carefully pull out some of the strands of the repository again. Jost stands behind me quietly, but he moves closer to me when I stand to make the rift between rooms.
With Jost here, I have to focus harder on the room’s weave before it comes into focus, but when it does I slip the strands in my hand into it, creating the opening. The repository, silent and dark, stretches out before us.
‘How . . .’ Jost asks behind me.
‘Good trick, huh?’ I can’t help enjoying his shock a little. ‘I took a piece of weave from the loom and inserted it into the weave of the room. I transplanted it to create a passage. It’s like when we rebound and a Spinster moves our weave from one spot to another, except I did that with a room.’
‘Okay, I think I get it,’ he says. ‘So we go in there and look?’
I bite my lip and then shake my head. ‘I want you to stay here and keep guard. If anyone comes, warn me.’
And if I get caught, run, I add to myself, hoping he will if the moment arises.
‘We should stick together,’ he says in a firm voice.
‘I know how it’s organised in there,’ I tell him. ‘It will only take me a moment, and I’m quieter than you.’
‘Not in those,’ he says, pointing to my feet.
I grimace and slip my heels off my feet. I take a few hops in my stockings to prove my light-footedness, and he squares his shoulders and gives a reluctant nod. Handing him my shoes, I kiss his cheek lightly and slip through the opening.
The room is silent without the hum of lamps, and I hold the digifile in front of me for light. Just in time, because I almost run into the first unit. Skidding past it, I’m suddenly thankful for the slippery stockings. I make my way to the front of the shelves where I found Sebrina’s file and begin searching for Amie. The individual units are organised by date according to geographic location. I have to find the Cypress files.
I comb swiftly through this aisle and move on to the next until I find the sequences that include E, for the Eastern Sector, and start searching for Cypress. I’m hoping it’s not more than that when my finger drifts onto a unit with her date. The rest of the data, including my mother’s initials, matches, and I pull out the card and scan the code. I hold my breath while the loading image blinks. And there she is: Amie Lewys.
I can’t bear to look at the information pertaining to why she was rewoven, even if I know it’s mostly lies. I save her dataset to the digifile and carefully slide the card back into storage. I wonder for a moment if taking the files would slow the Coventry down if they went after Sebrina or Amie, but if they have backup files it would be a red flag. I remove Sebrina’s card and tread noiselessly back to where I found it. I have to check the card twice to recall her sequence, since my first discovery was a complete accident. I’m slipping the card back into the cubby when I hear boot steps approaching. The steady clip of the approaching footfall sounds like Jost. I’ve been gone long enough that he might worry, but I’m not about to wait around and find out. Stealing to the side of the unit, I press against it and peek around the corner.
I take a deep breath and move to the next set of shelves. The steps have faded away and after checking the next aisle I dart quickly back toward the rift. I’m only a few shelves from it when I see it shimmering and fading. I barely glimpse Jost on the other side as hands reach out from the other side and pull on the tear. I abandon my cautious pace and run towards the opening. It’s closing rapidly, but I think I can make it. I’m nearly there when a hand catches my wrist. I scream, struggling against my captor, but he holds me back and covers my mouth with his hand. Then he pulls me into the dark, still room, away from my escape.
I kick hard against the man holding me in the dark repository, and he falls back with a groan, dropping his hold on me. Without missing a beat, I dash to where the rift has closed and tug frantically at the air, hoping to find a remnant of the studio. Meanwhile I hear my abductor racing in my direction.
I abandon my search and flee to a nearby shelf. It’s hard to see in the dark, so I press against the shelf and creep along it. The man’s footsteps slow to a walking pace. He’s searching for me now. My only hope is the door to the repository. I could weave myself out of this moment and freeze the repository, but that won’t protect Jost, and I have to get back to him.
Snaking from row to row, I stay close to the shelves, afraid to step too far out and reveal myself. At the last row, I spy the door. I wish I’d studied the map more closely so that I’d know where it led. This room is connected to the research labs somehow, so it’s possible I could walk right into a room of scientists. My only hope is that they’ve gone home for the evening, but I can’t count on that. And to get to the door, I’ll have to move directly into the centre aisle and make myself vulnerable to my attacker, who will definitely alert anyone in the area. It’s a no-win situation, but waiting around will drive me crazy. So taking a deep breath, I bolt for the door.