Stef felt the blue in the tank around her draining away, but she kept her eyes closed, trying to ignore it – just as she had often ignored her alarm when it had been time to wake up for school.

‘Stef.’

Ryan’s voice. Still not a reason to wake up.

‘Stef.’

‘Hmm,’ she managed, wanting to stay in the gentle, easy fugue state that he blue had allowed her.

‘It’s just before dawn,’ her dad-apparent said, ‘but I promise it’s worth it.’

She opened her eyes, and stood as the last of the blue drained away and the tank disappeared. He touched her shoulder, and the Tech Department scrubs disappeared, replaced with a bright-and-shiny uniform – one she was sure she’d have dirty within an hour.

‘Is it a good sign, or a bad sign, that I’m wearing a uniform before the sun is up?’

He smiled his implacable narcy smile down at her. ‘A good sign.’

They walked through the Tech Department – surprisingly, for whatever godsforsaken hour this was, there were people awake, but none seemed to notice her. They stepped into the elevator, and Ryan pressed the button for the roof.

‘No phoenix, right?’ she said.

‘Nothing like that.’

They stepped out into the grey light of the pre-dawn morning. Outside and below, there was traffic noise – part of the world was awake, even if she still felt like going back to sleep.

Ryan put a hand on her shoulder, and they walked to the safety wall that kept people from falling from the roof.

‘The first time we came up here,’ he said, ‘you needed space to breathe. The second, was so that I could show you magic.’

‘And now?’ she asked as he lapsed into silence.

‘Today is the twentieth of November, and due to a little paperwork pushed through by Enforcer Crawford whilst you were asleep, it’s your first official day as an agent. Jones needs to continue to do some adjustments to your code, but from now, you have all of the power and privilege; and the Duty; that comes with your position and your uniform.’

Ryan lifted a hand, and a spiral of blue rose from it, catching the first flickers of the dawn light.

She blinked back tears. ‘I’m entirely sure that that isn’t necessary,’ she said, reaching out to run her fingers through the slowly-turning, glittering blue.

‘I thought you might appreciate a little ceremony,’ he said.

He raised his hand, and the spiral lifted from it, burst over their heads, and rained down as dry droplets which faded like ash before they touched the ground.

‘As your senior agent, I’ll tell you that privilege and Duty define us; we have the power and the need to protect, to make the world around us a better place, and to improve it where we can. You can do good, and I require that you give it your all.’

She nodded.

‘As your father,’ he said, ‘I’m already amazed by you,’ he said. ‘And I know that one day, I hope that one day, you’ll see that in yourself.’

He raised his hand, and she shook it. ‘Welcome to the Agency, Agent Mimosa.’