Dealing With It: Part 3

“That’s more than we knew.” I looked over at her and Tara smiled at me. “Do you have any idea when that happened? The year? Or if we’re lucky, maybe a specific date?”

Tara’s expression went blank again for a few seconds. “No, but a lot of the stories sound like they could take place in this year. My mother’s and father’s stories both include mentions of the Heroes’ League as one of the first groups to face the True.”

“Cool,” Vaughn grinned and asked Tara, “how did we do?”

Tara frowned. “You all died—not all at once, but eventually.”

Vaughn nodded. “That kind of figures, but it’s not the first time, you know? Nick and Haley were supposed to die in St. Louis. It all worked out in the end.”

That was true. We hadn’t. Tara’s father had, and I doubted that Vaughn had remembered before he started talking. I did, though, and couldn’t help but watch Tara’s reaction.

At the time, she’d told me it was the kind of death he’d have wanted. By that, I think she meant in action and protecting people.

Tara didn’t break into tears or even pause. Instead, she replied in much the same way as she would if Vaughn hadn’t brought up her father’s death without noticing it.

“The stories don’t mention me at all, so I think you’ve got a chance. When you saw Emmy, you knew what might be coming. Now we have to prepare.”

Tara looked over the group and leaned back in her chair.

“That brings all of this back to Nick and I.” Stephanie glanced in Tara’s direction as she spoke. “We’re in the middle of whatever’s going to happen. No one knows if Emmy’s one of the True or if she’s going to be used to create them, but we’ve both been told that the Nine might be involved with Higher Ground. Nick and I will be watching for the True or the Nine, but all of you, and especially Vaughn, will be able to watch from the outside. We’ll need your help.

“I know that you don’t entirely trust me, but believe me when I say I’m not going to call in the Coffeeshop Illuminati without your okay and my mentors’ okay.”

Haley frowned for a moment, but not long enough to notice unless you were looking for it. “We decided to give you a chance before we invited you over.”

We had. We’d had that discussion after I’d gotten back from my first day.

Marcus leaned in above the table. “It’s old news now. Honestly, I was more worried that Red Bolt and Future Knight would drop by with you.”

Stephanie’s face showed the smallest hint of a smile. “They thought that you might listen to me more than you’d listen to them. I encouraged that.”

Vaughn snorted. “You know we fought them twice when we started? We won both times.”

Stephanie laughed. “What? No, they didn’t mention that.” She looked over at me. “You never said that.”

I shrugged.

Shaking her head, she added, “I’m surprised you’re talking to me at all. Look, I’ll be straight with you. My mission is to watch for if the Nine or anyone else seems to be involved with Higher Ground. It would be great if you’d help. I’d love to have you researching things we don’t have time to get to or being ready to help us escape, but you don’t trust me, I only need you to let me work. I’ll be happy with that even if you don’t do anything else.”

Tara took a breath and spoke before anyone else. “I feel like I have to do more than that. My father and I made our home here and letting anyone create the True won’t make this world better.”

Next to Vaughn, Amy said, “I’ve fought the True too—not me personally, but one of the earlier Bloodmaidens. I didn’t know it, but she made the connection and told me while Tara was talking.”

I blinked. That was weird.

Amy continued, “I think they came through Infinity City. Our world has a connection to it too. I don’t know why they came through, but they started conquering one city after another. My predecessor, the Bloodmaiden Aife, found that fighting them was easy at first, but once they learned how to fight her, it became much harder. She called in help—other bloodmages and our version of Lee.”

“Whoa,” Vaughn laughed. “How’d that go?”

Amy smiled and for a moment the expression wasn’t quite hers. “In our world at that time, Lee didn’t have anyone keeping him in check. It’s a long story, but all of the True were dead by the end. Aife wants me to tell you not to let them get a foothold here.”

Stephanie’s brow furrowed, but she didn’t ask how Amy knew what Aife wanted. “Is there any way for us to get Lee in on this?”

“I think he’s off-world meeting someone.” I hoped I didn’t show any hint of how important that meeting might be. “He’s due back in a couple weeks. So, maybe?”

Vaughn added, “But strange stuff happens around Lee. Figure it might just as easily be months. It’s a pain in the ass. Between what Tara and Amy just said though, we’d be crazy not to work together.”

I was about to throw my support behind Vaughn, but my phone buzzed. I’d gotten an email from Emmy at my university email address. Whatever had been holding up my security clearance had stopped. I’d be cleared to work in the lab the next time I came in.

24 thoughts on “Dealing With It: Part 3”

  1. They (the FBI) had to make the clearance paperwork look slow, Higher Ground would be suspicious if it came immediately… (that paperwork generally takes weeks) … especially if it came out he *has* a clearance already.

  2. “Vaughn nodded. “That kind of figures, but it’s not the first time, you know? Nick and Haley were supposed to die in St. Louis. It all worked out in the end.”

    That was true. We hadn’t.”

    This cracked me up 😂

    1. A few chapters ago, Nick’s narration said “I merged onto the freeway, joining the long line of cars in Grand Lake’s rush hour traffic—the kind that made “rush hour” something of a misnomer.”

      Nick is going to be the insufferable king of dad jokes when he’s older, lol.

      1. This is Michigan. Unless the Michigan of the story world is vastly different than ours, “Rush hour” is 5 cars doing 45 in a 55 zone.

        I heard, “don’t get on the road leaving Detroit at 5pm, the traffic is terrible.” We got down to 38mph once.

        I’d like to see them on the highway in Orange County, CA any time between 6am and 8pm.

        1. Speaking as someone who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan (on which Grand Lake is loosely based), the highway that runs through downtown can sometimes slow down to less than 10 mph when there’s construction, an accident, or occasionally no reason that I can tell.

          That said, it’s mostly better than that. The exceptions, however, are painfully memorable.

  3. With so much on the line, why isn’t Nick telling Agent Lim and calling down a raid on the facility to destroy the abominator birthing tanks before they can be used? I can understand wanting to gather more information, but that seems like a terrible risk in this situation.

    1. Not enough information at this time. One scenario had Higher Ground go to Mars. Escape vehicle they are currently unaware of at this time? Also at least two bases of the Nine had nukes as final defenses. And a nuke an hour drive from a city is still close enough to hit that city. Too many lives on the line to rush it yet.

      1. 60 miles is going to be outside the blast radius for a surface explosion, even for the multi-megaton monsters. There’s a fun tool at https://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/ where you can explode nukes of various sizes over your hometown and see how far the damage extends. Even doubling the size of the Tsar Bomba, the 3rd-degree-burn radius is under 40 miles, and the blast-damage radius is several miles smaller than that. The blast radius can grow some under certain atmospheric conditions like temperature inversions, but generally 60 miles is well into the safe zone. Even if the Nine had >100 Mt nukes, it wouldn’t make any difference because all the extra energy would radiate straight upwards into space, rather than enlarging the blast radius any farther. 40 miles is approximately the limit for a groundburst.

        The radioactive fallout pattern depends on the prevailing weather patrerns in the region. I don’t have any idea how the winds blow around the Great Lakes, but in most of the US the winds blow mostly west to east.

        1. Interesting tool But is this accurate? Using the force of three B83 bombs still won’t rattle the windows of my work if dropped on my house. And a regular B83 the fireball in Philadelphia won’t hit the water. Yet I was taught in the service that my home town in Jersey would be in the fireball.

          1. It’s fairly accurate. From The Independent:

            NUKEMAP is based on pen-and-paper mathematical models distributed by the US government in the 1960s and 1970s to help people understand the bomb. Of these, [Alex Wellerstein, nuclear historian and creator of the map] chose one that was accurate, fast and compatible with a web browser and Google Maps, and that didn’t overwhelm the user with data. He also wanted something that could be used in, say, Tehran as well as Washington. As a result he had to use an idealised model rather than the most accurate model, which would depend on – for example – constantly updated weather data. At the moment, the programme can also only model the result of one nuclear explosion at a time rather than the multiple explosions that would result in the real world from an escalating nuclear crisis or an all-out attack.

  4. “I don’t why they came through,”
    could be
    “I don’t KNOW why they came through,”

    keep th great story coming.

  5. I feel like they should be investigating what was different in the worlds where the True integrated with other humans. If this becomes something they cannot stop then they need to know how to steer the outcome to something more favourable.

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