I’d only been there for about a month, so I had no way to know if he were lying. On the other hand, even if he were telling the truth, it would still be an excellent excuse to make the birthing chambers disappear for a few days.
Combined with Emmy’s disappearance, my mind found it all too easy to imagine that they’d grab her and then create the True while the machine was out of sight. Who’d know? I certainly wouldn’t because I didn’t memorize the time needed to create the True while I was looking at them last–though I didn’t think it was too long. I’d have to look in the birthing chambers’ library to know the exact times it took to clone anything.
Looking up at Victor, I said, “Ok. I didn’t know that.”
It must have been good enough because Victor sat back down and I went and grabbed the psi-helmet from its storage locker. Part of me felt tempted to try to use the helmet for its original purpose—reading minds.
While I had more experience with telepathy than most people who weren’t telepathic, I suspected I’d still have to learn something to make it useful. I didn’t know how to use the helmet from experience, just the assumption that it couldn’t be too different from talking to Daniel. Also, if anyone saw me using the helmet, there would be questions—especially given the business’ now very clear connection to the Nine.
No, now was the time to keep one’s head down and look like a model unpaid employee.
And that’s what I did, half-expecting at any moment to get pulled away by Art and Zola and ripped to shreds, tortured, or at the very least threatened. I’m not sure how much of my work counted in the first two hours because when you’re watching the shadows around you, it’s hard to have a coherent thought.
I did my best to project calm, but I was checking my glasses’ near 360 degree view.
Stephanie walked past about halfway through, stopping to ask, “Is tonight still on?”
She gave me a nod and walked away after I said yes.
As I tried to put myself back into a mindset for writing code, Victor walked over to my cubicle, asking, “Tonight?”
I shook my head. “Nothing special. She’s dropping by my house and hanging around with me and my housemates.”
He stood there for second and said, “Okay. How’s the helmet project going?”
Though tempted to point out that he was preventing me from working on it, I told him, “Making progress.”
He asked for more detail and we talked through things for the next thirty minutes. When we were done, he seemed satisfied. He’d even made a few suggestions that might be useful.
I started reading through the code again, trying to find the spot that I’d been working on and recapture the thread of my thoughts. This time around, it worked, and I spent the rest of the day writing and testing sections of the program. By the end of work, I had made progress and found myself wishing I didn’t have to leave by the helicopter’s schedule.
I did have to, though, and so I walked out, joining Vaughn by the helipad, and riding back to my house with him.
It was October and the trees were losing leaves. We rode back in light rain. I wasn’t sure what that meant for tonight and Stephanie’s plans to go through Sandy’s file cabinets, but it was worth keeping an eye on.
During the ride I also took a look at the discussion that had followed my announcement. It was far too long to read through, but I did feel like I had to make sure that everyone knew that nothing much had happened during the day—that I was aware of anyhow. I’d checked in with my bugs and they were undisturbed. I’d also downloaded all the recent footage while I was in.
If we were going to sneak in and rifle through Sandy’s office, it wouldn’t hurt to send all of our footage through Hal and see if he noticed any good times to sneak in.
Anyway, I let everyone know that I was fine. Vaughn had already said so, but confirmation didn’t hurt. I also passed on what Stephanie and I were going to be talking about, hinting that I still might need a rescue if we broke in.
That led to groans—not literal ones, obviously, but I could read between the lines. Jaclyn wrote, “Keep us informed. We don’t want you going in without backup.”
A couple hours later found Stephanie, Vaughn, and I sitting on stools next to the counter in my lab in HQ. We’d gone through what Lim had said and his fears about the Nine as well as the birthing chambers.
“Did they really take them to another room for testing? And do they really do that every month?” I watched Stephanie for her reaction.
She nodded. “They do. Every month. It’s always around this time. It might be a little early by a couple days.”
Opening her phone and checking her calendar, she added, “It’s about four days early.”
Vaughn turned to face her. “What about Emmy? I didn’t see her on the way in.”
With a smile, Stephanie said, “She’s fine. I saw her on the way out. She was Victor free. He’d been walking over to see her a little before one—when you arrive. She managed to avoid him today.”
“Wait,” I looked at her, “do you think we’re just being paranoid after what happened with Dr. Hansen?”
She met my eyes. “No. Four days early is too early. Everyone else in the labs might be too wrapped up in Sandy’s cult of personality to notice, but they’ve never done that. I think you’re right and more than that, if what you said about someone having a Citizen’s Mark is right, they’re probably using the days that it’s out of the office to make stuff. You told me that some things take longer than they’d have overnight? Well, if they time it right they could get a weekend plus a few weekdays every month. That might be enough to transform Art and Zola into whatever they are.”
Nodding, Vaughn said, “Yeah, that makes sense.”
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it, but she was right. I didn’t know the exact times they needed for anything in the library, but I didn’t remember seeing anything longer than five days—including the True.
Glancing from Vaughn to me, she said, “We should go tonight.”