Samita didn’t say anything, and honestly, I had been kind of rude. Not that Tara seemed to hear.
She waved us forward, following Travis toward the corner—though not too closely. She didn’t have a death wish. Travis had already reached out, stuck his claws into one of the wooden beams that held up the floor above us and ripped it down.
He didn’t even act as if there were any resistance. In one moment, the beam was holding up the floor. In the next, it was in two pieces, both of them dangling from the ceiling. In the moment after that, Travis ripped a hole in the floor large enough for any of us to crawl through.
Tara turned toward us, and said, “Quickly, now. Samita and Rod, please climb through. Travis help them up. I’ll go last.”
She didn’t say anything, but it wasn’t as if I needed help. I turned intangible, and floated up through the ceiling. I was still carrying my costume—not my regular one, but what Nick called a “stealth suit,” the version that could fit under my clothes. So far as I could tell, Travis and Tara weren’t carrying theirs. They must have changed while they were in the circle.
The bluish glow must have given them some kind of privacy.
I turned completely invisible as I passed through the wall, coming out in an alley, but not much of an alley. The door where we’d come in with Julie opened into an alley wide enough for a small car. The alley on this side looked like it would barely allow the door to swing open.
As I hung in midair, the side door did open, and I was wrong. It hit the wall of the building next to it, a brown, brick building with barred windows. Samita stepped out, followed by Rod, and then Travis and Tara.
I floated over to them, and turned visible.
Tara didn’t wait, “Quickly, this way!” She led us into the alley that ran in between the back entrances of two rows of buildings. She led us down the alley. All the buildings we passed had wooden loading docks, and stairs in the back. I’m sure I saw a wagon wheel behind one of them.
I didn’t have time to really look at it because Tara shouted, “Over here!” Then she ran between two buildings out of the alley.
I followed her. We all followed her.
We came out into the street. On one side (our side), all the buildings still looked like they’d been abandoned sometime in the late 1800’s, but on the other side of the street, all the buildings looked like they’d been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Well, maybe not Frank Lloyd Wright himself, but maybe a less imaginative, and slightly insane student? They looked as though someone had liked the Guggenheim Museum, and designed variations on it all the way down the block.
All the buildings were white. Some were shaped like cylinders that bulged outward at the second floor. Others were bulging rectangles or squares, some of them with balconies, and windows that jutted out above the street or even other buildings.
I wanted to point out what it was to somebody, but I didn’t get the chance because of, well, you know, survival.
Breathlessly Tara looked up and down the street and said, “They’ll have discovered we’re not there by now, and they might be getting a little desperate.”
“Desperate, how?” I asked, because that didn’t sound good at all.
Tara checked the alley we’d just stepped out of. Aside from a dumpster (and probably rats), it was empty.
“Desperate enough,” Tara said, “to call for help. The True don’t like each other, but they hate crossbreeding between their groups even more.”
She took a breath. “I”m so sorry I got you into this, but they didn’t used to come this far.” She took another breath. “Anyway, Rachel, you and Travis have team communicators, right?”
I didn’t have time to say yes before she continued.
“Get into the air, and tell Travis if you see more of them coming. Meanwhile, we’ll try to lose them, and I’ll see if I recognize where we are. Julie can’t have taken us far. We have to be close to your reality. It’s just a matter of finding landmarks.”
I did take to the air, flying above the architectural nightmare below, searching the streets and alleys for people running, or cars full of identical soldiers.
It was still early in the afternoon. I could feel the sun, and a light breeze. It felt like a good day, or like it should have been one—if we weren’t hiding from fanatics in an unknown alternate universe. At that thought, I felt a brief, but visceral fear, because we weren’t just running, we could already have lost our home universe forever. Sure, Tara might think she could find her way, but I knew people got lost permanently.
Ask Dixie Superman about that sometime—assuming the guy wasn’t dead.
I pulled out my phone to make a test call. Travis and the others were walking between two of the white buildings toward the next block over.
I tapped my phone’s screen. It said, “Infinity City Cross-Dimensional Network. Connect?”
I hesitated, but clicked on the connect button. It opened to our home screen which looked normal—except that at the top it said, “-0.27 Realities.” Weirder, on the “Team Members” list it showed Travis and myself, but also:
∞ The Rocket