“Not really,” I said. “Because he checks names off his kill list on a regular basis. He’s not going to kill you, but that’s only because he’s got faith in Daniel’s block. Um… But he still wants me to get Daniel to improve it.”
“Right,” Jeremy nodded along as I talked. “The bit where he kills people isn’t fun, but look, the online group I’m part of has been tracking him for years, and I’m right next to him. That’s amazing. It still doesn’t seem real.”
I stared at him without saying anything. “It’s just…” I stopped, trying to find the words. “He killed thirty people who worked for Syndicate L last year because they knew my name, and you walked in when he was talking about something that he’s more worried about getting out than that.”
Jeremy had been leaning back in his chair, but leaned forward as I talked. “I shouldn’t ask about that, should I?”
“No,” I tried to keep my voice as level and serious as possible.
Haley added, “What’s going on is bad enough. I don’t know if Nick told you about The Thing That Eats, but it’s a supernatural creature that’s taking over metahumans and eating people. We’re trying to stop it, but we don’t know where it is, and right now we don’t know exactly how. We just know who it’s after—metahumans first, and everyone else after that.”
Jeremy leaned forward, putting his elbows on his desk. “It’s going after metahumans? All metahumans?”
Haley tilted her head, frowning. “We don’t know why one and not another, but it’s definitely going for metahumans more than humans. We’re going to hide any that it might know about in the League’s headquarters. Actually I was going to contact all of the former Justice Fist people after we got off the phone with Lee because they’re publicly known.”
Jeremy frowned. “Why do you think it’s going after metahumans?”
Sitting a little straighter on my bed, Haley said, “Easy. Every time we’ve seen it, it’s been using a metahuman as a host. And today when we were fighting it, it infected two new hosts, both metahumans. Actually, one of them was Alden.”
Jeremy froze. “Do you think it might go after Jillian?”
Shaking her head, Haley said, “Jillian has to use power juice. Everyone we’ve seen The Thing go after has been actively using their powers. She hasn’t been, right? And her powers are basically copying other people’s powers.”
Pulling out his phone, Jeremy said, “Yeah, but she still used to be Alden’s girlfriend. He knew what she could do. If it wants her, Alden won’t have a choice. He’ll deliver her, right?”
He started texting, looking up to say. “She says not to worry about her. She’s fine.” He stared at his phone. “I don’t like this. I’m going over to her room.”
“That might be a bad idea,” I said. “If Alden’s in her room, it’s there too. We’ve got protection against it. You don’t.”
“Yeah?” Jeremy stood up. “I’m going over there.”
His phone beeped again. Looking down at it, his lip curled. “She says she’s leaving, and she’ll be back later.”
Standing up, he ran out of the room. After a look at each other, Haley and I followed him. It wasn’t hard. He was slightly overweight and didn’t exercise beyond walking between classes while Haley and I had been exercising all summer.
Plus, Haley could lift a few tons and run at speeds appropriate to slow cars. Outrunning a physics geek wasn’t much of a challenge.
We caught up to him as he started up the stairway in the middle of the dorm, and followed him into the women’s side. As ever, I could immediately smell the difference in the form of perfume or maybe air freshener.
“You know,” Haley said, “she might not be leaving with Alden. She might have have decided to go to the library. I know I’ve still got classwork I should look over.”
Still breathing hard, Jeremy asked, “Then why are you here?”
Haley said, “Just in case you’re right.”
Almost no one was in the hall. One girl stared at us as if to ask, “Why are you running down the hall now?”
She didn’t say it, and maybe I was overreacting.
Haley stopped, holding out her arms to slow us down, and turning back to me to say, “Alden was here more than thirty minutes ago. I think they might have left before she sent you that text.”
Whoever the resident assistant for that hall was, she’d written the residents’ names under illustrations of cute ponies. Thus, we found ourselves looking up at the name Jillian Marshall and her roommate Sandra Boomsma.
Jeremy knocked on the door, and Sandra (so I assumed) opened it. Sandra had dark brown skin, curly black hair and was still looking at her phone as she peered at us through the open door.
She looked at Haley and I, but then gravitated on Jeremy. “Hey, Jeremy. Jillian’s gone. She left maybe half an hour or maybe an hour ago with her boyfriend. Wasn’t he in trouble with the police or something?”