Matt catches up with her when she’s halfway to the airport. Public transport let her down again – she’s waiting for another bus after the last one unexpectedly terminated halfway along the route – and his flashy car didn’t have any trouble in picking her up.
“Damn it, Skitter, I’m a Req officer, not a field agent.” He’s driving, but the road’s straight enough that he can turn his head to look at her in the passenger seat without too much danger. “What exactly were you planning to do?”
She shrugs. She hadn’t thought it through in that much detail. “Get on the plane.”
“In someone’s luggage? Or were you going to cling to the bottom with the magnetic clips?”
Actually, she’d forgotten about those. That’d be one way of doing it, if she doesn’t mind getting splatted on the ground when they land. But Skitter has no desire to trust in Matt’s magnets for the entire trip across the ocean.
“I’m not travelling with Nicki,” she says. She sounds sulky, but she can’t help it.
“Okay, that’s fair enough. I had no idea you had history and I wouldn’t have suggested her if I had.” He taps his fingers against the steering wheel. “I’ve got your ticket with me. I’ll take you through the check-in process and put you on the plane as we arranged.”
“You couldn’t have done that in the first place?”
“Skit, I’m needed in Requisitions. I can’t go chasing after you all day. This is the only time – and I repeat, the only time – you’ll get me coming after you, okay.”
Glad to hear it, she thinks, but says nothing.
It takes them half an hour to reach the airport and the queues are backed up halfway round the car park. Matt clicks his tongue impatiently, then wrenches the wheel to one side as he swings towards the barrier. An attendant tries to pull him over, but he shows him a small laminated card and instantly the man’s attitude changes.
“Of course, sir. If you’d like to follow me, sir.” Skitter watches in amazement as they’re ushered into the premium parking spaces on the top floor and then escorted into the building without stopping to pay, but she knows better than to ask questions.
It’s a similar story at the check-in desks – they’re whisked right past the queue. Matt swells with importance as he speaks to the girl sitting there. “My daughter is travelling alone,” he explains as he hands over the single ticket. “I’m just here to make sure she gets through security safely.”
“Of course, sir. We’ll keep an eye on her, sir, don’t worry.”
As they walk towards security, she can’t resist any more. She pulls on his sleeve. “Why do they all call you sir?”
Matt smiles and hands her the little card he’s been flashing around. Matt Lyon, it reads. MI2. Access All Areas. She doesn’t pause to read the small print. “MI … 2? Is that a thing?”
“Used to be, but as far as the general public know it’s now defunct and its functions absorbed into MI3. Used to handle Russian and Scandinavian Intelligence. Now we handle things a bit closer to home, if that’s where the problems arise. We’re different to the other branches of Military Intelligence, though, in that our spies tend to be a little out of the ordinary.” He gazes down at her. “Like you.”
“Nicki isn’t gifted,” she says.
Matt hesitates. “Well. I guess you wouldn’t call her a superhero. She’s not hugely ordinary, though.”
Skitter stops dead and stares. “You’re kidding me?”
“She never told you that--? Well, I guess she wouldn’t. She didn’t know back then.”
“Didn’t know what?”
“Now isn’t the time.” The security guard’s giving them odd looks. Matt makes sure Skitter’s got her passport and ticket and sneaks a peek into her rucksack to check the suit’s in there, completely intact. It folds up remarkably small.
"What can Nicki do?"
He ignores her. “Those magnetic clips are going to cause issues,” he says, biting his lip.
“You can’t just flash the fancy business card, then?”
“I’m not coming with you, remember?” He hunts in his wallet and pulls out a slightly smaller card. MI2 – AAA it reads in large letters, and beneath that there’s some guff about allowing the bearer to pass unhindered through checkpoints, the sort of thing you find in the small print of a passport. Skitter takes it from him. “Show them this. With any luck they’ll be well enough trained to realise they shouldn’t stop you. If they try and take the clips, let them take the clips. You can get some more at the other end.”
Matt hands her another business card. By this point, Skitter’s wishing she’s got more pockets to put them in. “This is the address of our correspondent in New York. She’ll be able to get you whatever you need. But don’t go to her unless it’s an emergency, okay? We’re not sure … well, it’s just best if this is kept as secret as possible. You know, the fewer people who know a super is operating on US ground, the better. They’re a bit funny about that, the Americans. Don’t like us sending our own over there.”
A super. She likes the phrase and the suit in her backpack makes her feel like she almost deserves it. “I’ll call you when I arrive, all being well,” she says. The comm device in the collar of her suit will take the place of the mobile phone she hasn’t got.
“Do that.” He ruffles her hair and watches her walk towards the big security gates. “Good luck, Skitter!” he calls.
She turns and waves, then places her bag on the metal detector. Predictably, it’s pulled over and a stern-faced guard demands an explanation. “I’m ever so sorry,” she says, with her most innocent smile. “But I’m afraid I’m on official business.” She hands him the card.
“MI2? Give us a break.” But he holds it up to the light, as though checking for fakes. “Hey, was that your dad at the entrance?”
“Oh, no, that’s my line manager,” she says, though that’s a lie too. Matt’s already gone. They won’t be able to check. “If there’s a problem, the number you need to call is on the back of the card.”
The guard examines it once more before handing it back and returning her rucksack to her. “There’s no problem,” he says.
Skitter’s through security. From here it’s a short walk to the plane, and then a long flight to New York. It’s the first time she’s left the country and she’s more than a little apprehensive. Nonetheless, a knot of excitement is forming inside her, almost enough to counteract the fear.
A super, Matt had said. She’s beginning to feel like one now.