I blinked, trying to think of what to ask next. That opened up too many questions.
Haley didn’t wait. “How low?”
Lee paused, making it either the first or the only time I could remember seeing him hesitate. “Let’s say that there are multiple factors involved.”
He leaned back in his chair, the red leather becoming more visible next to his shoulder length, black hair.
“Yeah? Like what?” I tried to sound interested, but not too interested.
Haley looked over at me. Lee chuckled.
Smiling, he said, “I probably should tell you. You’re on the edge of this becoming ‘need to know’ information, and I might not be there when you cross that line. So, I guess it’s story time. Where were we? Oh that’s right… I told you how the race of beings I came from doesn’t like competitors, and how when we saw new races, well, we decided to destroy them all. Better, we decided to give them the means to destroy themselves.”
He stopped and took a breath. “I may have neglected a few very important details when I told you the first version of the story. Not every one of my people agreed that we should destroy the younger races. That was understandable. We’d been around for quite some time by then, and we’d spread out. Plus, there weren’t many of us left, and some of us had gone native. They’d been guiding the younger races, teaching them. So, there was war. The ‘Destroy’ faction won, but planets, solar systems, and a chunk of a galaxy died.”
I flipped that around in my head for a little while. “So when you’re saying that there are multiple factors involved, one of them is that whoever we run into might not be from the Destroy faction.”
Lee nodded. “Right. I’m saying there’s a low chance because I’m sure my people aren’t even searching this universe for me, and if they are, they’re not searching this planet. I’ve left better clues in other places. Now if you were to visit another universe or get off this planet, the chances of meeting one of my people get higher. Plus, there’s a chance that one of us might be here on Earth. It won’t be someone from the Destroy faction then, but I don’t know more than that. Whoever they are, they’re hiding the same way I am. So I can’t see them, and they can’t see me.”
He gave a wide smile. “For all I know, there might be more than one, and in that case, you’re going to be looking at a fight. Now, I’d bet on me but, it’s not something you’ll want to be close to.”
Haley looked up at the screen in my hand. “You’d fight them? If they’re not from the Destroy faction, wouldn’t they be natural allies?”
Lee laughed and then he shook his head. “Allies? No. Now, once upon a time, I might have had friends in each of our factions—even outside Destroy, but I’m sure they must have soured on me by now. I was part of the Destroy faction for quite some time, and earned a reputation as an effective killer of my own kind.”
“Wow,” I said. “So you don’t have any friends.”
He shook his head. “I wouldn’t say that. I think the Xiniti might like me a little, and then there’s you kids. It’s not quantity so much as quality, you know?”
Then he stopped smiling. “As a friend though, there’s something I have to tell you. I can’t sense others of my kind, but you just might, and they might be able to sense you. If you can, pretend that you don’t notice and keep on walking. That way you might survive.”
Haley’s eyes widened. Mine probably did too.
Lee shrugged. “If it doesn’t think you noticed, it might not realize just how much time we’ve spent together. If it does realize it, it’s likely to watch you until you find me, and then well… Things burn.”
“It’s like with the ward, then,” I said. “What exactly does spending time together do?”
Next to me, I could feel Haley lean toward the phone. Lee’s eyes seemed to stop focusing on the phone for a moment, but then he stared into it again, “It’s like this—you know how there are multiple dimensions? Imagine that being near me sharpens you and hardens you in dimensions that you can’t quite sense. There are side effects—”
My dorm room’s door opened slowly, and Jeremy peered in. Finding that Haley and I were on the bed, but not making out, and staring at the screen of a phone, he opened the door fully, and stepped inside. Out of some kind of caution, he never let the door go, guiding it to close slowly and softly.
Lee continued “—like allowing you to punch The Thing and make it bleed, but also to sense my kind and be sensed by us. Don’t count on the ability to hurt us when you don’t have that ward. You don’t drain power from me, but Amy appears to have attuned it in a way that it drains just a little. It’s not much, but we’re going to need to destroy it when this is over.
“Now tell me, who just entered your room?”
Jeremy stopped walking, beginning to open his mouth. I didn’t give him the chance. Otherwise he might land on Lee’s list of people to kill in order to keep me safe.