Skitter and her client look at the small metal capsule she's just placed on his desk. It doesn't look all that significant, but she's willing to bet he'd be prepared to pay more if she pushed him. Still, now's probably not the time. She's not in the mood for bargaining. She just wants some sleep and a change of clothes.
"And you swear that's got everything we need to know?"
She holds his gaze. She doesn't need to answer. After a minute he backs down, picks up the little recorder and puts it in a drawer, from which he takes a thick brown envelope. "And you swear that's got everything I asked for?" she says, mimicking him with a slight smile.
"Down to the last penny. You drive a hard bargain."
"I have to live." She takes the envelope and opens it messily. She never mastered the trick of sliding one finger under the flap - she just rips until she sees the contents. There are a lot of banknotes. She hasn't got time to count them all now, though - she'll have to trust he didn't break his word. "I never know where my next job's coming from."
"Yes, about that." He leans forwards, resting his chin on steepled fingers. "What do you know about Snake Eyes?"
She hesitates a moment before answering, "Do you mean the gambling game, the film, the band, or the character in the G.I. Joe cartoons? Or the actual, like, eyes of snakes? Or-"
She could have continued, but he holds up a hand to stop her. "Your memory is as good as they say, but that's not what we need to know. They..."
Now it's Skitter who interrupts. "They're a person? Oh. I'm assuming that's a codename or something."
"Yes." From another drawer in the enormous desk he takes a cardboard file and slides it across the table to her. "That ought to be everything you need to know. We need you to get into her apartment and track her movements."
Skitter opens the file and skims through the first couple of pages of notes. Everything she's reading is warning her to back off. "Are you serious? I spy on normal people, not freaks. She'd find me in a second."
"We don't employ you because the jobs are easy. We employ you because nobody else can do what you can do."
"That's just 'cause I'm small."
"Ruth," he says, and she flinches. He swore he wouldn't use her name - right after he prised it out of her in the first place. "I'm sorry, that was mean. Look, Skit, we need to know about her, okay? You'll be well paid."
"How well paid?" She needs new clothes. Climbing shoes would be appreciated, though trainers without holes in would do. Of course, that'll mostly be covered by the envelope in her hand, but she's going to need a new cord for climbing soon. She lost her last spare in the fire that broke out while she was in Monsieur Desavoye's mansion, looking for the artifacts he'd taken from the museum.
"If we pay you this much for an ordinary person, how much do you think is fair for a superhuman?" He smiles. "You don't need to worry about figures. More money than you've seen in your life, I'd imagine."
"You forget, I break into people's safes."
"That's true. Well, enough to get you off the streets for longer than a month at the time. I think that's your record for keeping lodgings, isn't it?"
"I can't help it." A note of petulance enters her voice before she can stop it. "They don't like me. They find me creepy and want me to answer questions and insist on me having a name and ask about my parents and I don't have anything to tell them."
He pushes back from his desk and gestures expansively at the room. "Read the file. The details are all in there. Take your time. I don't want you getting caught. You're the best we've got, Skitter."
She nods and turns to leave, but he calls her back. "Matt's got an outfit for you in Requisitions, if you're interested. Head over there and check it out before you leave, would you?"
Skitter smiles and leaves the office, closing the door carefully behind her. Matt's refused to make her an outfit for years, saying he can't measure one up until she grows a bit. Maybe he's finally changed his mind. After all, it's not as if she's got any bigger since she joined.
A proper suit. Now there's a thought. She walks to the end of the corridor as she usually does, but instead of taking the stairs down to the lobby, she heads towards the third floor. Requisition. That's where all the proper spies get their gadgets.
Skitter's never been there before. She doesn't need gadgets.