“Okay,” I said. “I suppose I should ask what the name of the company I’ll be interning at is then.”
Lim grinned for a second. “No kidding. I like to think I do a better job briefing people than this, but here’s the basics. It’s called ‘Higher Ground’ which is both a reference to a song the founder liked and to the business’s mission—getting humanity into space no matter what that takes. It’s a startup that gets money from several sources, Hardwick Industries being the largest investor, but there are others. It’s also getting money from the Defense Department in addition to the alien technology they and other government agencies have collected.”
I rested my hand on my chin, thinking about that. “Why them? Why a startup? I’d half expect that they’d go to GE or some big firm.”
Lim sat back in his desk chair. “That’s a question. You’re not the only one to ask. The surface answer is that Alexander LePage—he’ll tell you to call him Sandy— is persuasive and he’s hired good people. Below the surface, he’s got connections that have helped him get those people and introduce him around. What we don’t know is where those connections come from—legitimate or not. Both are possible. We’ll send you more information about the business. You can ask me any questions you want after that. Still in?”
I nodded. “I’ve got to do an internship one way or another and I’d want to be in on that if I knew it were legal. So, sure.”
Lim straightened up in his chair. “Makes sense. The internship should count either way. You’ll just be observing after all. Later. Look for our information packet.”
“Okay. I’ll watch for that. Oh, and with regards to the Mad Scientist List… Is some completely different group going to contact me now?”
Shaking his head, Lim said, “That’s all outside the view of the person on the list. You’ll probably find that you have interesting educational opportunities that you didn’t expect for a little while.”
We said goodbye and the connection ended.
I walked out to find that Tara was playing with Jaclyn’s dog, Tiger. She’d become familiar with him during the summer after we came back from space.
Covered with short curly hair like a poodle or some terriers, he had jagged black, gray, and orange stripes. About the size of a Great Dane at this point, I hoped he was the runt of the litter. The adult version that I’d seen on the world where Jaclyn had found him reached sizes larger than horses and neared the size of small elephants.
Tiger barked at her to throw the ball and she did, causing him to scramble across the basketball court-sized room, dodging trophy cases and a glare from Kayla.
As he ran back, I noticed that the twenty-foot tall screen on the far wall showed an aerial map of the city with two smaller windows showing first-person views of the city as the people with the cameras swung from building to building.
I’d thought Kayla said that the patrol started in an hour? Haley and Marcus must have started early. I wondered if they were planning to put any of the footage online. People would get a kick out of it or so we were told by the for-profit wing of the Heroes’ League that licensed out our merchandise. Kid Biohack agreed. He’d had called me recently to offer unsolicited advice about our social media presence.
He was probably right, but I didn’t want to deal with it.
I walked over to Tara, reaching her as she was saying, “Who’s a good dog? Yes, you!”
And then she threw the ball again—because that’s what genetically modified super-soldiers do when dogs and balls are available, I guess.
Tiger bounded back across the room, his claws clicking on the concrete and earning Tara a look from Kayla. Tara meanwhile was laughing at the dog’s enthusiasm.
“He’s so funny,” she told me as I stood next to her.
I asked, “Did they have dogs in Infinity City when you grew up there?”
“Mm-hm,” she said, “but they weren’t very nice. There were stray dogs. Most of them were genetic experiments that were specifically programmed to eat human livers. They went around in packs. Then there were the dog-men on block T-59, but they didn’t let anyone in their territory. Plus, there were the cyberhounds. They might not count because they were less than 15% dog. Still, they were friendly sometimes. Oh, and some people had regular dogs, but nowhere near me.”
“Huh,” I said, remembering too late what my sister Rachel had told me—that all of Tara’s Infinity City memories were nightmare fuel.
Behind me, I heard the hum of the elevator, saving me the trouble of trying to figure out how to continue the conversation.
The elevator door opened and two people stepped out. Wearing a black leather jacket with a black t-shirt and black jeans, Vaughn either liked black or felt the need to look like the team’s “bad boy” even in his off hours.
Following him, Jeremy Barrows, my roommate at school for the past two years stared at Tara and then the dog as the dog ran toward us, dropping the ball in front of Tara.
As Tiger wheeled away from Tara to sniff Jeremy, Jeremy leaned backward, unsuccessfully trying to avoid getting the dog’s nose in his face. “Where did you get an orange striped dog?”
“Another planet.” I stepped backward and put my hand on the dog’s back.
Jeremy hesitated but held out his hand for the dog to sniff.