My lab hummed with the sound of 3D printers and other machines putting together more bots, some of them from new designs. I didn’t know how sophisticated Higher Ground’s security was, but I’d have to beat it if I wanted to learn more.
Off the top of my head, I listed what I wanted to find out more about and wrote them on a piece of paper, numbering them, but not in order of importance.
1. Any connection to the Nine.
2. The Higher Ground investor who’d died.
3. Whatever happened as a result of that call Ryan made.
4. Who had learned how to use the birthing chambers.
I stopped and thought, adding more.
5. How far can I trust Stephanie?
6. What about Emmy? Is she the mother of the True or not?
7. Who’s visiting from the Medford lab? Is that person connected with the Nine? Lim seemed to think the Medford lab might be.
Distracted by the bouquet of chemicals, I hoped that I wasn’t working with anything cancer-causing, but after checking the robots’ progress on my computer, I picked up the pen again and leaned over the counter, staring at the paper.
How was I going to handle all this stuff? Red Bolt and Future Knight were going to investigate Dean Whiteford, the businessman killed by the “cougar.” They were on that side of the state anyway if I remembered correctly. Hopefully, they’d get back to us with information. They were well-known heroes and Stephanie seemed to think they were competent enough in that setting at least.
As for the rest, getting access to the Nine’s computer system would open up a lot of possibilities. Hal, our resident AI, would be able to break in provided I could get him a connection to Higher Ground’s network. Even if he somehow had difficulty, he might be able to get help. He’d told us that there were other AI’s. If he could get help without telling them what he was doing, it might be worth the risk.
On the other hand, it might not. I’d have to talk to him about it and then specifically forbid bringing anyone else in if I had to.
That left the people questions. Could I trust Stephanie? Emmy? Whoever came from the Medford lab? I didn’t have an easy answer for any of them.
About the time I’d decided that for now, I should stick with bugging the buildings and getting Hal a connection, Tara stepped into the lab.
She wore a grey Heroes’ League uniform and a few drops of sweat ran down her face. I’d seen her practicing martial arts moves alone when I entered HQ.
She pulled out a stool next to where I sat by the wall. “Hey Nick, how’s the investigation going?”
“Well, as of today we’ve got our first unexplained death. In mystery novels, that means you’re making progress because no one would bother to try to kill you if you weren’t getting closer to understanding what’s going on. The problem is that I don’t feel any closer to understanding what’s going on and if anyone was, it’s probably the guy who died.”
Tara pursed her lips. “That’s hard to say. I’d need more information to be useful. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”
She asked me a lot of questions, covering everything I’d been doing since we’d last talked—which was great since when she chose to, she could pull together details I would never notice.
When she was done, she frowned. “I wish I were there. It’s nothing against you, but I need more detail than I think you notice.”
“Bringing you along would be a problem.” Even if Tara didn’t look like a taller, muscular version of Emmy, there was the fact that we’d be bringing the final product of their research in to visit—assuming someone was creating the True.
Tara laughed. “I don’t know enough to know for sure what’s going on, but did you wonder why Sandy happened to be gone when that man died?”
I looked at her. “Kind of, but I thought it would be impossible because he was heading to California to spend time with his wife and the murder happened in Detroit. Also, I don’t know anything about Sandy that says it’s likely that he’d be a murderer. I know that he was cheating on his wife with Emmy, but neither Emmy nor his wife are dead.”
She leaned forward, resting her chin on her arm. “It’s not that I think Sandy did it, but there’s something about the timing that bothers me. Maybe Sandy was coordinating the death so he wouldn’t fall under suspicion?”