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Jeth leaned toward Celeste again. They needed to keep up the farce that they were two teenagers who’d come to this remote corner of the spaceport to get the kind of privacy they couldn’t get at home. She turned her face toward his, playing along. It was convenient how easily adults ignored a romantic interlude between a pair of teenagers. You could hide all kinds of suspicious behavior behind the appearance of recklessness. That attitude had helped Jeth and his crew become one of the most successful gangs of thieves in the galaxy.

Jeth checked his watch twice more. When it was finally time to go, he scanned the concourse for activity. It remained lifeless, the only movement from the flashing neon sign in the window of a bar across the way.

He turned back to Celeste and nodded. Grinning, she pulled out a sleeper pill from the front pocket of the snug black pants she wore. She placed the small pill in her mouth, pushing it as far back on her tongue as she could without swallowing it. Then, taking a deep breath, she wrapped her hands around Jeth’s head and yanked his mouth down to hers, kissing him. She was careful not to exhale. The pill itself was harmless, but the fumes it produced as it dissolved would knock a person out for hours.

Holding his breath, Jeth stumbled backward as Celeste pushed him around the corner with her body, playing the part of eager lover. Now in view of the two sentries, he grabbed her by the hips, kissing her back. Their performance was completely believable, even though no genuine passion existed between them. This was just a part of the job, a con to get them in position.

“Hey, you two!” one of the sentries called. “You’re going to set off the alarm.”

Jeth kept his eyes closed and his body engaged in the make-out session, but he focused his attention on the sound of approaching footsteps. They now stood within a meter of the alarm sensor, but Jeth didn’t worry. Lizzie would’ve signaled if she hadn’t gotten the job done in time. He refused to consider the possibility that she might’ve been caught. Such thoughts only led to mistakes.

“What are you doing down here?” the man said.

Jeth pretended not to hear as he pulled Celeste even closer.

“All right, come on.” The sentry prodded Jeth in the shoulder with the barrel of his stunner.

Jeth held the kiss a moment longer, then pushed Celeste away from him. She swayed on her feet as if drunk.

“You kids can’t be down here.” The sentry’s eyes shifted from Jeth to Celeste and back again. He had a narrow, pointed face, like a rat’s, and his tan uniform hung loose on his slight frame.

Jeth glanced at the other sentry, still standing at the security station a good twenty meters away and watching them warily.

Maybe this won’t be so boring after all.

Jeth’s body tensed in anticipation, as if his muscles were threaded with strings pulled taut by the idea of danger. If the other sentry called for help, this was all over.

Remembering the part he had to play, Jeth forced his gaze back to Rat Face. He flashed a grin, wiping away the wetness on his lips. “Oh, sorry. We were . . . uh . . . just . . . you know.”

The man shook his head, annoyed. “Not here you’re not. This corridor is for docking customers only. Find another place for this.”

Celeste giggled and stepped toward Jeth, making to kiss him again.

“Whoa.” Jeth grabbed her hands before she could seize his head. Then with practiced ease, he pushed her sideways toward the sentry. Celeste stumbled into him, and the man caught her one-handed, righting her.

“Is she drugged?” Rat Face’s eyes narrowed on Jeth’s face. “Did you give her something?”

Jeth shrugged, flashing the man a rakish wink. “Whatever works, right?”

Celeste giggled again and grabbed Rat Face by the shoulders before he could respond. Then she kissed him, spreading her mouth wide and finally exhaling the dangerous fumes from the sleeper pill. The sentry was so taken by surprise he made no effort to pull away. They never did. Celeste was fast and far too attractive to resist.

Rat Face’s eyes rolled back as the drug took effect. Pretending to catch him, Jeth grabbed the man by the elbow and simultaneously yanked the stunner from his hand.

Before Rat Face had finished falling, Jeth strode through the terminal entrance, taking aim at the other sentry. The grinning, cocky teenager from a moment before vanished, replaced by someone with command beyond his years and possessed of a singular purpose. No alarm sounded as he passed. Lizzie had gotten the job done.

Jeth closed the distance between him and the other sentry, who raised his own stunner. Blood pounded in Jeth’s ears, adrenaline pumping through his veins, but he resisted the urge to panic or speed up. He knew not to fire early or let his aim wander from the target with unnecessary motion. Instead he took a deep, almost lazy breath, letting a calm sweep over him.

Like so many before him, the sentry didn’t know what to do about this teenage boy with the cold, calculating gaze charging him, whether to fire or hit the alarm. He stood there, frozen in indecision.

The moment Jeth was in range, he exhaled and pulled the trigger. The flash of the electric bolt lit up the gray walls, turning them blue as it soared toward the sentry and struck him in the chest. The man stumbled backward then slumped to the ground.

Grim satisfaction, mingled with relief, came over Jeth, and an involuntary smile crossed his lips. Celeste rushed past him, withdrawing a syringe from her pocket as she went. She stopped beside the fallen sentry, knelt, and then plunged the needle into his arm.

Scanning the entrances for more sentries, Jeth headed toward her, the stunner already charged for another shot.