Then Red Lightning took to the air, flying out to the street where Günther inspected the living and the dead.
Grandpa stood in the street, staring down at the asphalt.
I turned away from watching him, and back toward Ghostgirl. She’d been watching him too, but turned her head back toward me.
“That was weird,” I said.
She turned to look behind herself again, looking out of the alley and toward the street. When she turned back to look at me, she said, “Weirder than you think. We don’t exist in their universe. A supervillain attacked Mom, and she lost the baby.”
“Wow.” I thought about how that might have changed things. Grandpa would have felt guilty about not being there to protect her. Mom and Dad would have felt horrible. Nick might have been their first, possibly only, child.
Ghostgirl nodded. “And that’s still not all. Nick died, but from what I’ve heard them say, I don’t think he was our Nick—he was similar, but not exact.”
I almost said something, but she didn’t give me the chance.
“We’re still not up to the weird part. They’re different because Grandpa went through Infinity City, and discovered a reality where Red Lightning went nuts. So he came home, detoxed Red Lightning from power juice, and when he was completely clean, ran him through their version of the power impregnator. They call it ‘the energizer.’”
I thought about it. “That’s better, but only barely.”
Ghostgirl shrugged. “I know, but we’re still not to the really weird part.”
I sighed. “Get it over with.”
“Grandpa and Giles discovered the key to human immortality. That’s why they look so young. They’re growing younger.”
It was my turn to sneak a peek outside the alley. “That’s bizarre. A world where Red Lightning never went crazy means there’s no me or even a version of Nick. And by the way, human immortality? How do you know all this?”
She said, “I work with them sometimes. That’s all.” She nodded toward where Julie lay. “Like with her. That’s our Julie. She went wrong and escaped into Infinity City maybe a year ago.”
Julie didn’t move, and her eyes were still shut. Her suit coat had been left back at the building, and she still wore the shirt I’d ripped the sleeves off.
I looked up from where she lay, and said, “How did she get this bad? In my universe she was irritating, but, I talked to her a few times over the summer on movie nights, and she seemed close to human.”
Ghostgirl stared at me. “Movie nights? She’s been in HQ? She knows your real names?”
“There wasn’t much of a choice. After Nick blew up the old storefront, it was either bring them into HQ and let them help, or completely erase their memories and lock them up somewhere.”
Ghostgirl said, “We erased their memories and locked them up until after we fought the Cabal. You invited them into the League?”
“No,” I said, and even to my ears I sounded exasperated. “Not really, but we brought some of them in for movie nights during the summer. In our world, Julie ended up in Stapledon. Not yours?”
“No. They were too much of a risk. Are they all in Stapledon?”
I shrugged. “Except for the ones that were too young.”
She didn’t seem to know what to say. Then she sighed, and found something. “Maybe we should have brought them in. Maybe it would have been better. It’s too late now, but we could have.”
Neither of us said anything, and I took advantage of the silence to check on Travis, Tara, Rod, and Samita.
They were all still doing convincing statue impersonations.
I hoped they started moving soon. I wanted to leave. I needed to make sure Nick would call me if anything came up with regards to St. Louis—or if anything major came up at all. We’d diverged from Ghostgirl’s reality months ago. Whoever planned the attack might have adjusted it.
It was too much to hope they’d abandoned it entirely.
Ghostgirl floated closer to me, talking more quietly. “Did I get one of your calls? It was from Mom. About having Mary over for Christmas?”
I laughed. “No. Mary and I broke up ages ago.”
Ghostgirl smiled. “Good.”
Then she stopped smiling. “Did you ever tell Mom about…”
“Being bi? No. Have you?”
She shook her head, and that was a little disappointing because she was three years ahead of me. I would have hoped I’d have told Mom by then.
Maybe some of that showed on my face because she said, “It never seemed like a good time. You know she’ll freak out. I was about to say something, but then Nick died, and after that I didn’t feel like I could drop it on her.”
I was hardly in a position to judge. So I said, “I’m sure you’ll choose the right time.”
I paused for a second, and then said, “Anyway, do you know how to get us home?”
She didn’t answer at first. Maybe she wanted to talk more about handling Mom? I don’t know. She only said, “Sure, your League phone should be able to guide you back.”
I pulled it out of my pocket. “Show me how?”
Two hours later, we left the city. The fortune cookie had said, “You are your own best help.” Knowing a little bit of what might lie ahead of me, I wondered if that would be enough.