Before I thought about it, I asked, “Why would your parents let you try drugged Cheerios even once? I’m assuming they didn’t label them.”
Tara laughed. “No. I mean, you know Infinity City. It’s in the middle of North Dakota in this world and it’s not in the center of civilization in most places it exists. So the nations around it find it easy to control what gets in an out and we don’t have farmland, so we’re dependent on anything that gets imported. If food comes from an alternate universe where the government keeps its citizens in a drugged out haze, we’ll take it. If a government’s trying to control the version of Infinity City that exists there, we’ll still take the food and it’ll probably get shipped into place that have nothing to do with where the food came from.”
“What’s Infinity City?” Jeremy, my Freshman and Sophomore year roommate stood on the other side of the kitchen. The only person in the house who wasn’t a superhero and hadn’t attended the Stapledon program, he had a telepathic block in his head to prevent him from spilling anything.
Short and heavyset, he wore a t-shirt that said, “Science: It’s like magic but real.”
I wasn’t sure when he’d joined the conversation, but his room was on the other side of the kitchen. He could have been listening the entire time.
Vaughn and I looked at each other, but before either of us could figure out how to address this Tara said, “It’s a city that might not exist in all alternate universes, but it does exist in an infinite number of them. Your government keeps it secret. Most do. I was born there.”
He shook his head. “That explains a lot. There’s this place in North Dakota that the military won’t allow anyone near and satellite imagery blots it out in the weirdest ways. You have no idea how much cred it would get me online to explain this one. Everyone thinks it’s some kind of Cold War intelligence facility.”
Nodding Tara said, “Sometimes there’s an exit in Russia. I mean, not always, but sometimes. So they used to sneak spies in that way during the Cold War and the Russians would sneak them in over here. The whole place used to be full of spies. There are still some from universes where the Cold War hasn’t ended yet.”
Jeremy looked over at me. “You guys have known this for years, right?”
I hesitated, but then said, “My grandfather mentioned it a few times.”
Vaughn said, “Only since Nick’s sister went on a field trip there and nearly got sold into slavery. So, two years.”
Jeremy blinked. “You know what? This sounds more and more like the kind of thing I shouldn’t know about. I’m going to go back to my room, get ready for class, and pretend I never heard anything.”
He took a step backward out through the far doorway and then turned around and stepped into his room, proving that he might be getting wiser. He’d been a believer in superhero related conspiracy theories before he learned about my identity as the Rocket.
Pausing as he picked up his spoon to turn toward me, Vaughn said, “I’ll text you when I’m ready to leave.”
Four hours and a couple of classes later, I found myself at my internship. Hardwick Industries wasn’t taking whatever had happened the night before lying down. I’d had to pass a security guard at the door. Ronnie, the guard who’d ridden along on the helicopter on my first day had been on it again.
He’d been less talkative than the first time, keeping his attention on anyone who appeared to be approaching the helicopter while we were on the ground and out the windows while we were flying.
I was tempted to ask him what he thought he’d do if we were attacked by flying supervillains or fighter jets, but I decided not to. Between the thin line of his mouth and his endlessly searching eyes, I thought he might overreact.
A more cautious person might have thought better of adding a magical glowing die to the mix, but I decided to anyway. As I sat down at one of the cubicles to start writing code for the psi helmet to birthing chamber connection, I made a point of placing the die next to my laptop and stopping to touch it every now and again.
Stephanie walked up as I stared at the screen, trying to figure out the best ways to put my understanding of telepathic connections into code. She picked up the die and held it up to the light.
It did not glow at all. I don’t know what I would have done if it had.
“Planning to start a company D&D game?” She rolled the die. It came up as an eleven. She smiled and left it on my desk. “You wouldn’t be the first.”
“I’m not planning on it, but are there games going?”
“A few. I’m not in any of them, but they exist. With everyone living on the property, you can bet they’ll play some games. But I’m not here to talk to you about that. I’m here because Hardwick Industries had a break-in last night. You might have seen it in the news. So if you’ve got anything that you think might make security nervous, you should take care of it now.”