Daniel had taught me how to telepathically get his attention so long ago I didn’t even remember when.
As we walked down the stairway, I gave him a mental poke. Hey, what did you learn from Courtney? How’s she handling it?
I felt a mental pause, and concentrated on the next step as Daniel answered my question. Chances are he was checking what was behind it.
Our footsteps tapped on the brown linoleum, and a few steps later, he replied. She’s scared. She’s wondering what she’s gotten into, and she’s wondering how we’re so calm about it.
I took a few more steps, thinking about that.
Walking down the stairs next to me, Haley looked up at me, and then over at Daniel.
I wondered what had given us away.
Calm? I didn’t feel calm. Every time I thought about the dome, I wondered how many people died, and if we could have stopped the bomb.
She’s got no idea.
Hey, I know. I’m just telling you what she’s thinking. If you’re really asking whether I think she’s stable, and if I think she’ll flip out if you run her through the power impregnator, she’s stable. I don’t sense any reason she’d do a Red Lightning.
Is there any reason to think you’d miss that?
Well, she’d have to have a really good shield, and by good I’m meaning one so well hidden I can’t detect it. That would have to be really good though. The other possibility would be if she kept part of her brain in a machine. I’m not saying it’s likely, but the Dominators could arrange both of those, plus a few.
There were a whole lot of reasons I never wanted to come to the Dominators’ attention.
We reached the bottom of the stairwell, standing in front of glass doors in a grey metal frame.
Don’t worry about it, Nick. I’d put the chance of that as near zero. My dad’s faced the Dominators. I didn’t see any signs, and believe me, I checked. It’s just safer.
We walked out the doors, feeling the cool fall air. October would turn into November soon, and it already felt like it. I was already regretting not wearing a thicker jacket.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked the time—5:41am. I decided not to think about it.
I put the phone back in my pocket. It still felt closer to the dead of night than only an hour away from getting up.
With no sign of the sun, it felt like we were the only people awake in the world.
Haley took my hand. “Are you two done talking?”
She didn’t say anything, looking up at me as if she were still waiting for an answer.
“And we should probably tell you about it, but not until we get in the car.”
The car wasn’t far away, practically as close as you could get to the building while still being on the street. It was amazing the spot had been open. A long line of cars ran down the side of the road.
As we neared the car, I noticed the fire hydrant next to the back door. How had I missed that?
Daniel said, “Don’t forget to check the windshield, especially the left side windshield wiper.”
We got closer, and I did.
Campus security had given me a ticket.
* * *
On Saturday, I got a call from Cassie to come over to her house. Not having a car, I called Haley. She picked me up from the dorm around 10 in the morning. She’d borrowed her mom’s car.
Haley’s nose wrinkled as she made a face. “Do you know why Cassie said to come over?”
“No. She’s barely gone home since college started. Her mom’s been complaining about it.”
We turned the corner, starting down Cassie’s block. She lived in the suburbs, a neighborhood that could have been anywhere—big, newish houses. Cassie’s house was a big, two story white house that stood next to a big, two story tan house.
It stood out from the others only because of the semi-truck in front.
Men carried boxes out of the house, and up the ramp into the back of the truck.
Cassie stood on the front lawn, watching, and talking to Vaughn.
Haley parked the car, and we got out.
“No fire hydrants,” she said as we walked across the street. She gave me a sidelong glance.
I sighed, stepping over a small pile of brown leaves by the curb.
As we joined Cassie and Vaughn, I said, “Your mom’s moving?”
Cassie shook her head. “We’re both moving.”
“What about college?”
Cassie opened her mouth, taking a breath, and then saying, “I think I’ll be able to finish the semester by following my classes on video. Even if I can’t, it’ll work out.”
None of us said anything, knowing who would work it out—Cassie’s mom’s connections in government or the Stapledon program.
Assuming Cassie would still be in the program.
In a quick movement, Cassie turned toward the house. “We should talk about it inside.”
We walked in.
The whole place looked empty—no furniture or pictures—just rooms with carpeted floor. The boxes we’d seen movers carrying must have been the last ones.
A few movers stood in the corner of the living room talking.
One man leaned against the wall. His Carhartt jacket hung open, revealing a gun hung in a shoulder holster. He noticed me looking, and nodded.
I wondered who they worked for.