Percy lay on her bed, counting off the minutes. According to the clock on her PI, she had just over two minutes to go.
Her heart was thumping quickly in her chest. She couldn't believe what she was about to try. It was crazy, perilous, but it was also exciting. She felt like a daring hero, like somebody important; but she didn't dare to think about what the costs of failure would be. Her grandfather would never have let her attempt something so dangerous, so Lorden had ordered that she merely return to the palace, then sent her his instructions en route via PI. She had read them so many times that she could now recite them by heart:
1) Get back to the palace.
2) Break into the palace's main security console.
3) Hook up your PI to the console and Whitney will send you the required codes and security overrides.
4) Scan my ID signature into the system's security clearance list.
The rest was up to her. A daunting task for the fifteen-year-old, but Percy thought she had figured out a way to do it. At least she hoped she had.
Ten minutes to two, the clock read. It was time to get going. Percy slid her feet out over the side of the bed. She had chosen not to wear shoes, since stealth was crucial to her plan, and she was dressed only in a nightgown to avoid suspicion. But she had to take her knapsack with her; there were too many things she needed to carry.
Percy eased open the door to her room and peeked up and down the hallway outside. After making sure that there was nobody in sight, she stole out and closed the door behind her. The corridors were illuminated by dim, auxiliary plasma bulbs that were interspersed along the walls at about knee level. They gave off an ethereal, blue light that enabled Percy to see well enough, but did not shine so brightly as to disturb anyone's sleep.
Percy padded down the corridor, her bare feet making almost no noise at all on the sumptuous, pale green carpet. The main security room was one floor above, but Percy passed by the elevators, instead making for the large, stately staircase beyond that was rarely ever used and climbing its old, wooden steps.
Upon reaching the next floor, Percy ducked down a side passage, stopping at the first men's bathroom that she found. She did not flip on the light switch or lock the door. She did, however, produce a piece of paper from the pocket of her nightgown, on which she had already written "OUT OF ORDER" in large letters, and proceeded to tape it to the door before entering the bathroom.
Once inside, she rummaged around in her knapsack for a small bottle of dark fluid and her plaslight, which she clicked on and set on the sink. She then cracked the bathroom door, uncapped the bottle and dribbled its contents out onto the ground outside. It was only a bit of wine which Percy had swiped from the kitchens, but in the low light it was indistinguishable from blood. Percy took care dripping it in conspicuous splotches on the carpet, in a dark line that trailed under the door. Then she slipped back inside and took a seat on the lip of one of the sinks. Now it was time for more waiting. Percy just hoped that she knew Bruce as well as she thought she did.
Bruce Collins was one of the security monitors who Percy was rather friendly with. After some sly questions and wheedling, she had pried what time his shift was out of him, and her plan hinged upon Bruce seeing the blood as he walked by to relieve the other monitors. Percy checked her clock anxiously. Any minute now he would walk by. Percy drew her taser from her knapsack and trained it on the door.
Several agonizing minutes had sneaked by and Percy's heart was fluttering in her chest with anticipation, when she finally heard the footsteps. They clunked leisurely along, and Percy felt a bead of sweat form on her brow. The footsteps stopped, and Percy saw a shadow obscure the pale blue crack under the door. She could imagine Bruce examining the dark stains on the carpet, trying to determine what to do. . . .
The door snapped open, and as soon as Percy could get a clear shot, she fired. A sharp bolt of blue energy crackled out of the taser and struck the intruder square in the chest. Percy scrambled forward and heaved the unconscious figure inside, then closed the door again. It was Bruce alright, and Percy was relieved that everything had gone according to plan. Not even a shout of surprise; she couldn't have dared hope for better.
Percy felt a twinge of regret as she saw Bruce's face, but there had been no other way. With luck, he would never even know it was she who had attacked him.
There was no way that Bruce's shirt or pants would fit her, but Percy thought the jacket might do in a pinch. She had packed a set of dark, nondescript clothes to wear in her knapsack, and she changed quickly into them. Then she draped the jacket around her and grabbed Bruce's keys and ID, which would hopefully grant her entrance to the main security room.
She took a deep breath. Now for stage two.