A traveling exhibit of Egyptian artifacts is threatened by thieves. Pinkerton agents, including Ess Fremont, are providing protection. A midnight vigil brings Ess face-to-face with the reason behind the thefts -- and the two groups seeking what is hidden within the artifacts.
Encountering her missing grandparents' allies, Ess can reclaim her heritage, but hesitates. They aren't being honest with her. How can she join a battle affecting the entire world when she doesn't understand the reasons for the war? There is more to the Blue Lotus Society than protecting Egyptian history and culture.
As the exhibition crosses the country, Ess approaches the tipping point, when her decision could be made for her. Who can she trust? Who is lying to her and using her? When the enemy strikes, she discovers that making the right choice can't always wait for answers.
A soft, three-note whistle warbled through the warehouse, coming from the far door. Ess choked on a totally irrational giggle. The distinct hiss-clop of very large feet trying to walk noiselessly in heavy boots came through the waiting quiet.
Charles was late, but fortunately not that more negative definition of late.
However, he was walking right into trouble.
"What in the Sam -- Odessa?" Charles hissed, appearing in the doorway. He was a distinct man-shape on the far side of the spill of dimmed moonlight. "Where are you, girl? Are you hurt?" The snick-click of his Colt cocking rang loud through the warehouse.
"Run!" she shouted. "I'm trapped -- get the others." She stared down the leg suddenly pointed at her face and swallowed hard, braced for another cloud of sleeping gas or maybe the acid this time. The automatons didn't have visible ears, either, but they seemed to understand exactly what she was doing when she shouted.
"What are those things?" Charles stepped out into the moonlight, staring up at her.
She was touched that he was worried about her -- glad that he assumed she was hurt and she hadn't fallen asleep on the job -- but the man was an idiot. What part of "run" didn't he understand?
"Get out, now! Look behind you!" She dared to point -- no reaction from the automatons.
The automatons on the floor moved at triple the speed she had seen before. Their tap-tapping sound turned into a rattle as they seemed to skim across the floor, heading right for Charles. He let out a shout and backed up, pulling his other pistol and letting go with both barrels.
Charles was a crack shot.
The automatons were little more than dark brass blurs as they circled him, dodging bullets and moving in faster, until they leaped, hitting him square in the chest and taking him down. He let out a yell that turned into a string of curses.
A string that cut off two seconds later with choking. Ess heard that hissing sound and prayed it was the chalky sleeping gas and not the acid. Charles turned onto his side, curling into a fetal ball as he gasped for air, then abruptly went limp.