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Rae stepped out of the bakery and wiped her hands on her apron, mentally preparing herself.


"Don't worry about that one, Mary," she offered an easy smile to the waitress. "I'll get it." Mary, knowing Aimil was a longtime friend of Sunshine's, had no objection, already moving back to the kitchen to get the next ready orders.

Sunday brunch was almost always a busy time, and every Sunday, Aimil and her parents met at mid-morning to chat over their eggs and sausage and biscuits about the things going on in their lives.

Sunshine approached with the tray and a smile, chatting easily as she set their plates down.

"Hey, Aimil," she added, as casually as possible. "Want to catch that used book sale down at Martin's, tomorrow?"

"Oh? Sure! I hadn't heard they were having a sale."

"Yeah, they apparently didn't advertise it very well. I just heard about it the other day," Rae said vaguely, trying hard. "I'll swing by around one-thirty and pick you up."

"That sounds good, Sunshine," Aimil smiled, but the shadows of the faint line between her eyebrows showed Sunshine that she had an inkling there might be something up. Which, of course, there was.


That just made it easier, when Aimil opened her apartment door the next afternoon and said, just in case, "Come on in. I still need to find my keys."

The door safely closed and locked from the inside, Aimil gave Sunshine a glance. The baker tucked her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, feeling uncomfortable and unsure how to begin. So, once tea had been made and the fragrant steam was wafting up towards her face, she just said the simplest explanation she could think of.

"I need your help."

Aimil's eyebrows quirked upward, wry, "I guess Martin's didn't know it was having a sale, either."

"No," Rae admitted, a faint smile tugging at the corners of her lips for a brief moment. But then came the question of how to go about this. "I've been... helping out Pat and Theo and Jesse, since they asked me to. Unofficially, you know. As I can."

The necessity to be vague was frustrating to Sunshine, and it showed, but Aimil just nodded. Somehow managed not even to ask what that unofficial help consisted of. Rae wondered how long it would take her to get used to this sort of thing. Maybe she could get compartmentalization lessons from Aimil.

"Being unofficial gets me out of a lot of paperwork, of course, which is great," she added, trying to stay light, "but it means I'm not allowed access to a lot of information that could potentially help me, too."

"It's a trade-off, Sunshine. It's keeping you safe from SOF and SOF safe from... well, you." Rae's dry look in reply said plenty on what she thought about that. "It's professional, not personal, and you know that. If things do go bad, Pat and Theo would have to show they covered SOF's ass to even hope of coming through it unscathed. What sort of information are you looking for?"

"Reports on attacks, anything local and recent and out of the ordinary - I know the news gets the bare bones of it, but there's always a lot SOF doesn't say in the interest of covering their own ass," Rae replied with a dry smile. "Pat's wanting a lot from me, needing a lot, but he's not willing to give me information I need."

Aimil didn't say anything right away, glancing at her combox at its place on her desk.

"You know," she said, glancing at Sunshine in a way that - if she hadn't been able to read her friend's shadows - would have worried her, "being caught distributing SOF secrets is a severely punishable offense."

"But everyone knows Deputy Exec Jain refuses to do anything to catch and stop even frequent leaks. You'll be in fine company," Rae replied with a slight smile, feeling a bit like she was getting away with something, mocking the Goddess of Pain. "And you know I'll be careful. I'm using a loaner combox."

"Yeah, yeah," Aimil said, shaking her head as she went to her desk, hitting the combox' power button as she sat down. "I'll put the most recent info-"

"The last couple of weeks or so?" Rae interjects, and Aimil nods.

"- on a portable drive for you." The combox screen lit up, and began going through the loading screens. Aimil watched it with a faint frown turning down the edges of her mouth, as though it held an answer to her - and, by extension, the world's - problems. Sunshine knew just how much a risk she was asking her friend to take; she wouldn't have asked if it weren't important. "You're just lucky I'm a SOF second, Sunshine."

"And a librarian first," Rae rejoined, allowing herself a faint smile of relief.

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Rae "Sunshine" Seddon

August 2017

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