Walking over to the school’s parking garage turned out to be every bit as cold as I thought it might be.
I hadn’t thought to wear my boots, and when I cut across the lawn, snow got into my shoes.
During the drive across the city, the van’s heating system warmed up enough to melt the snow still on my shoes. By the time I arrived at the house I’d inherited from my grandparents, and taken the elevator down to the Heroes Leagues’ headquarters, my feet were cold and wet.
I felt every inch the budding supergenius as I walked to the front of HQ’s basketball court sized main room, leaving wet footprints on the carpet.
I sat down at the main table in the room, took off my shoes and socks, and put them in front of the nearest heat register.
Checking one of the terminals, I learned that I’d somehow arrived early enough that I had time to kill before Cassie called, but not early enough that I’d be able to do any more than figure out where I was before I had to stop. Cassie would be calling at eight. It was currently 7:38 pm.
I had twenty minutes–roughly. Actually twenty-two minutes, and possibly more if Cassie took her time.
Not sure exactly what I planned to do, but fairly sure that I could waste all that time online, I logged in at one of the terminals.
At the very moment I clicked on the browser, my phone and the terminal’s speakers started to chime, showing the caller was my sister Rachel. I took the call on the computer terminal. I could have sent it to the twenty foot screen on the wall, but sometimes you don’t want to see video from a cell phone on a screen larger than your own body.
Rachel’s face appeared on the screen. I couldn’t tell where she was—someplace dark, for sure.
She looked a lot like my grandmother if my grandmother had had short, black hair instead of blond. They shared the same restless energy and both seemed to be perpetually amused by the world around them.
Rachel didn’t seem particularly amused just then.
She skipped all the polite greeting stuff people tell me you’re supposed to do on the phone, and just said, “Nick, do you have anything?”
“Zip,” I said. “I still need more information. You met an alternate version of yourself. She told you that Daniel, Haley, and I died, saving St. Louis from being destroyed early in my second semester of college. Do you have any idea how I found out or what kind of technology they used? I haven’t found anything.”
Her face fell. “I told you before that I didn’t know any of that. We barely had time to talk, and you know I haven’t been able to go back to Infinity City.”
I did. Infinity City existed simultaneously in our universe and many others. After the way Rachel’s tour group had been attacked, the Stapledon program was reevaluating how to run their visits to the city. In the meantime, no one could visit.
“Sorry,” I said. “I can’t think of anything else to try. I’ve set the computers to search for any new construction or public works projects in St. Louis. I’ve cross-referenced anything promising with other cities. Nothing’s standing out.”
Rachel frowned. “What would you be doing if you weren’t looking? Maybe, I don’t know… Maybe you found it because of something you’d do accidentally?”
“If that were it, that would be great,” I said, hoping Cassie wouldn’t call yet. “Because that would mean that I can stop worrying about it and go do normal stuff.”
Rachel didn’t say anything for a moment, giving me time to wonder where she was. A janitor’s closet, maybe?
“Look Nick, try it that way for a little while. Or, I don’t know, think about what you’d do normally, and if there’s a chance, try it. Don’t just ignore it and hope. People could die. Their Dr. Nation thought it could have killed millions if no one had stopped it.”
“Got it,” I said. I was ready to be off the phone.
Unfortunately, I think Rachel caught my mood because her voice rose. “Nick, whatever you do, don’t fly in and try to stop it yourself. That’s how you die, remember?”
I sighed, feeling more than a little frustration. “I remember. You’ve told me a bunch of times, and we’re still in January. I think we’ve still got a little while where things will still count as ‘early in the semester.’ Maybe a couple weeks.”
“I know. I hope you’re right.” She looked away from the phone. “Look, I’ve got to go.”
“Go,” I said. “I’ll call you if there are any breakthroughs.”
Rachel frowned. “Don’t forget.”
Rachel didn’t look like she believed me, but she did hang up.