“I hadn’t asked him… I haven’t asked anyone.”
Cassie’s voice rose as she talked. “Well, don’t skip him. I told you he’s been feeling left out.”
“Ok. I won’t. You told me about that.”
As the words escaped my mouth, I realized that I’d committed to bringing him along—which meant I ought to call him.
“Good,” Cassie said. “Are you going to let him know, or should I?”
“I’ll do it,” I said. “Do you have anything else? I should probably call him now.”
“Nothing. Talk to you later.”
“Tomorrow,” I said, “at 4 a.m. You’ll have to tell me where.”
“I’ll email you when I come up with a good spot,” Cassie said.
We hung up.
I stopped, standing on the side of the sidewalk, but not in the snow. It was almost as high as my boots, and wouldn’t take much to go over the sides. Then I held out my phone, finding Vaughn’s name on the team list.
I considered whether I should really call him here on the sidewalk in the middle of campus. Then I decided I would. Not many people were around, and given the cold, not many people were going to linger and overhear.
I clicked on the screen, still wishing this was something I could do from my room. It wasn’t as if I could use the touchscreen and use gloves.
Vaughn answered, “Hey, it’s a been a while.”
He didn’t sound angry, or even annoyed.
To someone in the background, he said, “Sorry guys, gotta take this call.”
“Don’t be too long,” Sean said.
That was not good news.
I didn’t recognize the other voices in the background, but I could guess that it was likely Dayton and Jody, Sean’s friends.
A door shut, and the voices cut off.
Vaughn said, “Hey, I’m walking down the hall now, so I might not be able to answer everything, but I’ll get to it when I find someplace private.”
“Sure,” I said. “I know what you mean. I’m standing outside because even though I can talk about stuff in front of Jeremy, I can’t talk in front of his friends. Honestly, sometimes I think I should have asked you if you wanted to room with me.”
“Yeah?” Vaughn sounded a little surprised. “Well, you still can. My roommate’s not coming back next year, and I don’t want to room with Jody.”
Vaughn snorted. “His roommate’s sick of him. The guy’s barely there except to sleep. I’m sure he’d move out, but he hasn’t figured out where he’ll go.”
“Huh. You’d think they’d try to talk about it.”
Laughing, Vaughn said, “With Jody? You know the guy. It wouldn’t work. Makes sense with anybody else, though.”
He had a point there. If I’d been really unlucky, they might have paired me with Jody. I had no idea what I would have done then—made a big enough stink to get a different roommate at the very least.
“Hey,” Vaughn said, “I’m alone. I’m in one of the study rooms on the first floor.”
“No one’s using it?”
“On Friday afternoon?” Vaughn laughed. “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve ever been in one of these.”
“Cool,” I said. “Here’s why I’m calling. You know how Rachel went to Infinity City last fall?”
“And heard you were going to die? Cassie told me about it.”
“Ok, well, we’re going to St. Louis tomorrow morning. We’ve got to be there before dawn, so I’d say be at HQ by 5:30 am.”
Vaughn almost sounded like he was choking. “Before dawn? On Saturday?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “I don’t want the jet to be seen and the shields only hide us at night. During the day, they still block radar, but they make the jet look like a jet shaped hole in the sky. So if we get there before dawn, we get there without being seen.”
“Ok,” Vaughn said, “I’m in.”
“Really? I’m glad, but I’m warning you that in the alternate universe where I died Haley and Daniel died with me.”
“I know,” Vaughn said, “but this sounds like something we’ve got to do.”
“Great,” I said, and then hesitated for second. “One more thing, please don’t tell Sean. He showed up out of nowhere for the Rook thing, and I don’t want to deal with it this time.”
Vaughn chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. I got to hear way too much about Rook from his end already. I’m not looking for more of that.”
“Wait, what?” Sean didn’t have any right to complain.
“The end,” Vaughn said. “Flick kept Sean away from the fight.”
“Well, yeah, but it was important. The place was filled with nerve gas, and he made huge fan blades and sucked the stuff out. Without that, “Cassie and I would have been the only people from our side fighting.”
“I know, but he sees it differently. He thinks she was keeping him from looking good when you were around. He says she could have waited to attack, and let him join in.”
“That makes no sense. I don’t care if he looks good, and I don’t think Flick would do that for me even if I wanted her to.”
“I’m not arguing with you. I’m just answering your question.”
He was right, but a strong part of me still wanted to argue with someone. This was exactly the reason I didn’t want Sean along. He saw everything through one filter—himself.
“Sorry,” I said. “He frustrates me.”
Vaughn didn’t sound bothered at all. “I get it. He’s got good points though. He’s loyal to his friends, and he does care about Stapledon and everything.”
“Good, I guess. Hey, I should make a couple more calls.”
“No problem,” Vaughn said.
Soon after that, we hung up, leaving me to stand there, thinking about the conversation. Vaughn hadn’t seemed angry with me. Was Cassie wrong? I didn’t think anyone knew Vaughn better than she did though.
On the other hand, Vaughn got along with people. It might be that he’d never say anything about it.
I flipped it around in my head for a little while, and didn’t get anywhere, deciding I’d be better off thinking about tomorrow.
I had a couple more people to call.