Percy slipped out of the kitchen while her mother supervised the loading of the dishes--dirtied by cooking breakfast for the King and Queen--onto the conveyor belt.
The servant droids worked with alarming efficiency. So, technically as Head Housekeeper, there was no real reason for her mother to be there. But on occasion the steam would build up and cause one of the droids to short.
After the last time, when the newest droid went berserk and smashed up seventeen pieces of the Queen’s finest china, Percy’s mother vowed to keep an eagle eye on them at all times. Her mother, like most of the members of her family, was not a big fan of, nor believer in, the wonders of technology.
Percy grabbed her hooded coat, her scanner, and her knapsack from the servant’s closet and scurried down the rear hall, emerging in the sunlight at the back of the castle, near the alley that led into town. She knew from there she could catch a hired lev to take her into the RedLamp District where her Magic Scanner 3000 had indicated a ridiculous amount of activity last night.
She’d never seen the contraption so active before! It had always had a constant hum of activity all throughout the castle, but Percy just assumed it was somehow misreading her. She thought maybe, just maybe, the device could read a desire for magic as well as the actual presence of it.
Occasionally and inexplicably it would spike whenever she went past Elenia’s room, but Percy figured that too was a mistake, an anomaly, as Professor Benjamin would call it. There was no way Elenia, of all people, could possess magic. How absurd!
In any event, the dials had been off the charts last night, bouncing around like ping pong balls, indicating that something intensely magical was happening at the center of the city. And Percy, after reading about, dreaming about, Magic for nearly half her fifteen years was determined to find out what it was.
Having made it to the end of the alley without being recognized, Percy stepped out onto the jostling Kenton Avenue, scanning the crowded street for the nearest taxi-lev stand. She saw one at the corner, and its light had just turned green. She ran up to the platform and scanned her Citizen's ID card before anyone else could claim it. She smiled when it pulled up with a whoosh and stopped on a dime right in front of her.
The passenger door rose up slowly and she heard the taxi driver say, “Where to?”
“The RedLamp District please,” Percy replied as she clamored inside.
The taxi driver looked at her skeptically in the rearview mirror.
“Did you say the RedLamp District, kid?”
“Yes, I did,” Percy said, putting on a most imperious tone, a trick she’d picked up from the Queen.
The taxi driver shook his head. “Even I don’t go into that part of town.”
“Well.” She straightened her shoulders. “I’ve got an unlimited credit line on my ID card,” she lied. “And there’s another taxi lev pulling up right behind us.” She tilted her head and stared back at the driver in the rearview mirror. “So, are you going to take me into the RedLamp District or not?”
The taxi driver harrumphed, then chuckled as put his cigar back in his mouth and flipped the lever to close the passenger door.
He caught Percy’s gaze in the mirror again. “I sure hope you know what you’re doing, kid.”
Percy leaned back, clutched her knapsack tightly to her chest, and sighed. Yeah, so do I.