I stared at the screen. “You’re kidding.”
[They’ve been ordering the appropriate materials for the last three months.]
I typed, “How do you even know this?”
[Your grandfather assigned me the task of tracking materials that might indicate the presence of Abominators or other aliens’ technology on Earth.]
I thought about the implications of that for a second. Certainly aliens were the obvious possibility. Grandpa’s technology was generally twenty years or more ahead of current tech. It didn’t seem like a big stretch to think mine might be too. Aliens were a real possibility.
I thought about it a little more. I couldn’t just consider aliens. Another armor designer might be behind it. Syndicate L, one of the few big criminal organizations not dominated by supervillains, had a guy, and whoever he was, he was pretty good.
I’d been attacked by enough of his work to appreciate its effectiveness. This might be his headquarters.
“So,” I wrote, “is this alien work?”
[Unknown. It would have been five years ago, but currently there are other organizations working with the appropriate materials. I can no longer be confident of it.]
Still, I thought, three months? I could do a lot of preparation in three months. What kind of preparation had they been doing in St. Louis? I had no way of knowing without going down there.
I thought about that. Rachel had told me I’d die if I went in. Would I really? It couldn’t be inevitable, could it? I already knew something would happen in St. Louis. Maybe I might have expected something if I only knew what the jet had just told me, but I probably hadn’t.
I shook my head. No, Rachel had told me that an alternate version had known something bad was going on, and had died with Daniel and Haley after it seemed that Lim wasn’t reacting quickly enough.
What I needed was a plan, even a very simple plan. I thought it through. What did I need to know? I needed to know what St. Louis Industrial Materials was doing with a ceramic that could be used in armor. Were they making something with it? Were they making it for somebody? Who?
After I found that out, I’d know whether I’d need to call in the Defenders or the FBI. Both?
I could live with that, I decided, and began to get up.
No, I decided, and wrote an email to Isaac Lim, and told him what I’d found. When I’d told him initially, he’d lectured me on how unlikely it was that my life would be exactly like any particular version of me.
He hadn’t been entirely wrong, but the version of Rachel that she’d met had been in a universe that split off from ours only a few months before. It was too close a match not to watch for similar events, hopefully to avoid them.
I didn’t want to die, and I definitely didn’t want to have Haley or Daniel die, but Rachel said we’d died saving St. Louis.
What if that were the only way the city of St. Louis survived? How was I supposed to weigh something like that? My life and my friends versus two million or more people living in and around the city?
I didn’t want to let them die, but it seemed like I should be able to work out a way for everyone to survive.
I wished Rachel had gotten more information.
I wished that we were allowed to go back to Infinity City and find someone who knew more.
Then I got back to writing the email, finished it and sent it off. Rachel had told me that I’d gone to St. Louis after Lim failed to respond. If he was in the loop, he’d have to respond, right? Especially if he knew the stakes.
Well, I could hope.
I looked at the time. It was midnight. Time to get back to the dorms. I took the elevator up, and drove the van back to Grand Lake University, doing my best to ignore the nagging feeling that I should be flying to St. Louis immediately.
* * *
I woke up on Friday morning to the sound of Jeremy’s alarm clock. He had an 8:00 A.M. class. I didn’t, but I got out of bed anyway. While he took a shower, I sat down at my desk, and opened up my laptop, checking Double V’s website and forums.
I didn’t see anything unusual. I even searched on “St. Louis,” and checked in the Missouri state forums.
Nothing indicated that the city had been destroyed during the night, or even that anything unusual was going on.
Good, I thought, and breathed a sigh of relief I hadn’t realized I’d been holding in.
I logged into my Heroes League email account. No reply from Lim.
I switched back to the Double V forums, and logged into the SuperTV forums after that.
I didn’t find any reference to anything unusual going on in St. Louis there either.
When Jeremy came back from his shower, he stepped into the room in a bathrobe, hair still wet. He looked at me. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” I said, but even I could tell that I was lying.