“It’s complicated,” I said, and after a pause to put the story together in my head, I told her about Sandy and Emmy, Victor, the birthing chamber, the ansible, and the walk down the beach. I didn’t mention everything Kals had told me because if there were ever a time to go into that, it wasn’t now.
“So, basically,” I finished, “now everyone’s going to believe we’re an item or want to be.”
Jeremy looked up from grabbing two more pieces of pepperoni pizza. “I did my internship this summer at a physics lab near Chicago. I’m pretty sure nobody was having sex with anybody there and if they were, I don’t want to imagine it.”
Haley glanced over at him without saying anything and then back at me. “She should have told you. You don’t just dump something like that on someone without warning them.”
“True,” Vaughn said, grabbing a paper plate. “You’ve got to admit that it’s clever. She could have told everyone they were dating. Then they’d have to make out every once in awhile to sell it. This way everyone will assume that they’re good enough at hiding it that haven’t gotten caught making out.”
Haley frowned. “I’ve got to admit that that would have bothered me more. I know you wouldn’t do anything,” she looked at me, “but I know guys think she’s attractive.”
Vaughn laughed. “She was the one you saw having sex with her boyfriend in her lab, right? Or did both of you see them?”
Haley’s mouth twisted as she said, “Mostly me. Nick had me watch them from one bot’s camera while he checked what document they were printing from another. And I saw more of her ex-boyfriend than I did of her.”
“No kidding?” Jeremy looked up from his pizza and over at me. “Nick did you save that video? I’m not saying you should sell it but there are websites that would pay a lot of money for something like that. What are their codenames? If they’re big or if their parents are, we could be talking six figures.”
I tried to remember. I did tend to save everything, but if I’d saved that, I’d never looked at it. “I have no idea, but we’re under a mental block similar to the one we gave you. We can’t tell you their codenames if it would lead to you identifying them.”
Even as I talked, I couldn’t help but notice that every eye in the room was on him. Kayla’s jaw dropped. “You wouldn’t really sell the video, would you? Even if you blocked out their faces, someone might still recognize them.”
Haley’s cheeks reddened. “The way I remember it, the screen mostly showed her ex-boyfriend’s butt and they kept most of their clothes on.”
“Yeah,” Vaughn laughed. “I remember you guys telling us about that. That’s the night they stole the plans.”
Looking up from the piece of pizza she’d been cutting with her knife, Amy said, “That seems like forever ago now. That was the night the fairies kidnapped Vaughn.”
Jeremy looked over at me. “What?”
Shrugging, I said, “It’s a long story.”
Kayla stared him in the face. “You’re not going to try to sell that video, are you?”
Jeremy shook his head. “No. I probably can’t because my block won’t let me. I’m just amazed you don’t think about how much it would be worth in the wrong hands.”
Holding up her hands, Haley looked around the group. “Let’s just not worry about that. Why don’t we find another topic and then watch a movie?”
To me, Haley added, “Vaughn’s right that it’s better than having you pretend to date her, but the way she didn’t doesn’t make me want to trust her more.”
“I know. Me neither.” I paused. “So about Gordon’s butt… How would you rate—”
She stared at me. “Ten out of ten.”
Then she laughed. I didn’t ask her to rate mine. And anyway, as long as we were on the topic of finding other people attractive, I would have had to admit that Stephanie was—theoretically. Between having her pass our plans off to the Coffeeshop Illuminati, fighting a team she was on in a tournament at Stapledon, and now this, attractiveness wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I thought of her.
I had to admit that if I saw Stephanie wandering off with some guy, I’d wonder if they were involved too.
Stepping closer to me, Haley looked up as she grabbed a plate. “I’m being nice about this, but if Stephanie does something that gets you hurt, I’m not going to be happy at all. She can’t make decisions like that if you’re supposed to be working together.”
She put a couple of pieces of pizza on her plate. “And I know I already said something like that. I’m going to let it go—for now.”
I grabbed my own plate and took a couple pieces myself, glancing over at Tiger as I did.
The dog watched me with interest. That or maybe he watched the pizza and I happened to be near it.
“Where’s Marcus,” I asked.
Haley pulled out a chair and sat down. “Well… He’s been trying to figure out a way to make things right with Sydney. They weren’t ever a couple, but I think she was hoping. She volunteered to patrol tonight to avoid him and I convinced her that it would be better if she talked to him. So they’re out tonight together.”
I pulled out a chair and sat next to her. “What happens if they get into a fight mid-patrol?”
“They’re going with Chris. The idea is that they’re not going to discuss any deep issues. They’re just going to get used to working together again. I don’t think they’ll get in an argument with him there.”
She sighed. “I’m hoping they won’t.”
I asked the next thing that came into my head. “Is Chris in the Rocket suit?”
Haley nodded. “His version of it. It’s almost the same as yours.”
I ate my pizza. That was good news. However long this lasted, Grand Lake would still see the Rocket in the skies above it even if it wasn’t me. We hadn’t gotten to talk about it in detail, but maybe we’d see each other on Saturday or Sunday.
On Monday, I’d be back at school and later in the day, I’d be at Higher Ground.