Jaclyn’s voice came over the comm. “Not that that’s not important, but there’s one more thing we need to decide. What are we going to do with this guy?”
She stood over the body of The Thing That Eats’ host. “I’ve checked his pulse, and if he’s got one, it’s too faint for me to tell.”
Izzy turned toward the body, adding, “I’m not sure either, but if I had to guess, I’d say he’s alive, but barely.”
I looked at him. The HUD showed his probable body temperature at his core at 98.6—human normal, but cooler in his legs and arms. Despite all the damage we’d done to his legs, they were covered in skin and muscle again—even if they were half as thick.
“Almost brain dead,” Daniel said, “but there’s something there.”
Jaclyn nodded. “Then I say we should leave him. If he’s alive and he’s like the rest of them, he might heal before we get back to Grand Lake. If he freaks out, we’ll be fighting him inside the jet. Blue, Cap, and I might survive, but I don’t know about the rest of you.
Letting her gun hang from its strap, Cassie said, “Makes sense. Let’s go.”
As a troll, Rod couldn’t do much more than grunt and roar, but he did his best. “Not like. Host innocent.”
Izzy tilted her helmet toward the body, and then toward the rest of us. “I don’t like it either.”
Amy picked up the glowing, red cube, dropping it into a pouch on her belt. “We’ve never separated anyone from The Thing after the host has taken the The Thing’s form. For all I know, it’s brain dead because it doesn’t have any of its own mind left.”
Gesturing out toward the fog, Cassie said, “The police and everything will be here any time. We’ve got backup. Let’s leave this to them.”
Jaclyn nodded. “I don’t like agreeing with you, but you’re right. Night Cat is supposed to call them.”
Haley’s voice came over the comm. “I’m texting them… And they’ll handle it. They aren’t telling me how. And hurry up here, some of the police are peeling away from the main group.”
The jet sank toward us, stopping a few feet from the ground. The hatch flopped open and we all climbed inside. Haley sent the jet straight upward, giving me one last look at The Thing’s host. The man lay motionless in the only spot that was empty of fog as far as I could see.
It disappeared quickly. Haley aimed the jet toward space as soon as we could do it without breaking people’s windows.
For the next few minutes, we didn’t say much of anything, listening to the roar of the jet’s main engine as we ascended.
About the time we could see the curve of the Earth, Vaughn said, “What was it talking about?”
We’d all taken off our helmets by then, and everybody had turned their costumes from the black and red we’d worn for this mission to their normal costume colors.
I, meanwhile, had been checking the Defenders’ feed. The feed for space showed the current status for near Earth space as “safe”—no alien spaceships seen or detected.
Behind me, Cassie said, “Maybe this isn’t the right time for that?”
Amy, also seated in the row behind me, “No, we don’t have a choice. The Thing made this public. We’ve got to talk about it in public.”
Izzy, now sitting the farthest row back with Daniel, said, “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk publicly about it. If it’s private, none of us need to know.”
“You do.” Amy stood up. “I should have told all of you a long time ago.”
Haley frowned. “This sounds like it will take a while. I’m putting us in orbit.”
I glanced back at Amy. She’d changed back into herself during the flight. I hadn’t noticed any of the normal red light and music. She must have gotten better at damping it down.
“You’re probably right,” I told Haley.
Amy was nearly a foot shorter as a normal person and wore jeans and a t-shirt. Her red hair stopped at her shoulders instead of going down her back.
She had the same attitude, though. She took in everyone with a look, and said, “I told all of you that I’m a princess in my world and that I had to leave because my twin and I had both received the Bloodmaiden powers. I told you it was because people feared that I’d try to usurp power and rule the empire. That’s true. All of that was true, but there’s more.”
Lowering her voice, she continued, “I didn’t tell you that my mother, father, and sister don’t believe that at all. They sent me away partly to keep me safe, but partly because there was another threat to the realm and wanted me in a position to save or avenge them if it comes to that.
“Many of you have duplicates in my world, but with magical powers instead. They sent me to Nick’s grandfather because he had a device that could send people to other universes. You’ve got one exactly like it.”
I thought back what to Daniel and I jokingly called the Starplate, a black disk the old Heroes’ League left in our headquarters. I’d never learned how to use it.
Amy kept on talking. “The Nick in my home universe and I… connected. We only had a day together, so I don’t know if what we had was love, but we liked each other. We didn’t make any promises about staying together forever. It’s been two years, and there’s a Haley there too, so they might have found each other again…”
“Found each other?” Haley asked.
Amy turned back to look at her. “In my universe, you’re a werewolf, and your pack left when they found you were getting involved with a human.”
At Haley’s frown, Amy said, “I know it’s weird. In my universe, Cassie and Vaughn are together, but Vaughn’s a weather wizard in training and Cassie’s barely human. There’s another Daniel too… I don’t know who he’s dating.”
Vaughn cocked his head and looked at her. “Did you say weather wizard? That’s really weird. I dueled a weather wizard once. But anyway, you said your family sent you here because they were hoping you’d save them. Does that mean you’re going back?”