“No shit?” Vaughn looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Do you know when?”
Emmy frowned. “Are you making fun of me?”
“No,” Vaughn shook his head and then smiled at her. “I believe you. There are psychics all over. The Heroes’ League in Grand Lake has had at least two—the Mentalist and the Mystic. They’re pretty well known and I’m sure there are a bunch of people with potential out there that no one knows about. Do you take power juice?”
“What?” Her eyes widened. “No. That’s illegal. I’ve got to admit I’ve wondered if I would make what I can do into something more predictable, but even before it became a controlled substance I didn’t want to risk it.”
Vaughn didn’t say anything for a second but then said, “Yeah. I get that. It was all over my high school and I didn’t try any, but I’d just gotten out of a program for fighting substance abuse the summer before it happened. I didn’t want to relapse.”
That, of course, was a lie. Vaughn had come out of rehab before our senior year of high school, but the reason he didn’t try power juice was that there wasn’t any use for it. He’d already awakened his powers fully with the power impregnator.
Tara might well have seen through that lie even if she didn’t know Vaughn’s history, but Emmy only said, “That’s right. I forgot you went to that high school—the one where the guy turned into a monster at prom.”
Shrugging, Vaughn said, “Nick went there too. It’s no big deal. No one got hurt. The Heroes’ League showed up on time. For real though, I’m not making fun of you. Do you know any details? Something specific we could watch for?”
Shaking her head, Emmy leaned against the front of her desk, almost sitting on it. “No. You always hear about psychics having strange dreams or visions or I don’t know what… For me, it’s more like solving a puzzle. I think about things in a certain way and I can see a relationship even if it’s not much of a relationship. Most of the time I don’t know how things fit together, just that they do.
“That’s what I’ve got now. I know that Victor and Nick are connected to something in the Higher Ground offices,” she glanced over at me, wide eyes watching for something, maybe a reaction, “but you and I are on the outside. I don’t know what will happen or when, but Nick moves like someone who expects a fight and Victor’s always angry. It’s going to be violent.”
She looked me in the eye. “Am I right?”
Hoping that the note of fear in her voice didn’t mean she was afraid of me, I met her gaze. “I’m not allowed to talk about any of the artifacts in the offices, but I am trained in fighting. I’ve been training for more than ten years. As for Victor, he does seem like an angry guy.”
She looked around the room before speaking in a lower voice. “Sandy told me more than he should have about what’s in there. I have some ideas. Watch Victor. I feel like he’s going to do something and I’ll be involved.”
I nodded. “I can do that. He’s been worrying me a little anyway.”
“Good,” she leaned back over her desk and moved her mouse and looked at her computer monitor. “I’m sorry I kept you, but you shouldn’t let me slow you down. Don’t be late to work, but don’t forget about what I said, okay?”
“I won’t. This is more important to me than you might think.”
We walked away, taking footstep after footstep across a bland, corporate carpet in a bland corporate hallway toward offices filled with potential mad scientists and murderers.
Neither Vaughn nor I said anything at first, but he stopped in front of the door to Hardwick Industries’ offices. “You know what she is, right?”
Keeping my voice low, I said, “I know what she might become.”
Vaughn checked the doorway. “Yeah. That. Let me know if you need help. I think I heard that rain was in the forecast, maybe even lightning and thunder.”
I told him, “I’ll let you know,” and then I walked down the hall, thinking about Emmy, Tara, and the True.
Nothing about Higher Grounds’ offices hinted at the possibility of an upcoming apocalypse in the form of the True. It felt as dead as usual and the labs felt as full of activity.
Victor gave me a wave but otherwise stared at the screen of his computer. No one bothered me as I started writing computer code for the psi helmet in the cubicles near the birthing chambers.
When I contacted the spybots and started downloading last week’s recordings, no one showed any sign that they noticed that I’d stopped working. Bearing in mind what Cassie had said about the Abominator Citizen’s Mark, I decided to contact the birthing machine to see if they had modified anyone while I was at it.
I felt the birthing chambers presence in my head and called up the contents of the library, sorting by the most recently accessed records. My stomach lurched as more than one hundred different records became available. Someone had been searching through the library over the weekend. I let my implant go through the files, checking the summaries for anything interesting.
It didn’t surprise me that the system for adding a Citizen’s Mark turned out to be one of them. If they understood what it was, adding it to someone would make modifying the psi helmet to control the birthing chambers redundant. It would also allow them to control any Abominator device in range—including weapons.
Checking the access dates showed that it had been accessed a week ago—before most of the others. I turned that over in my head. It didn’t seem impossible that they’d added the mark to someone, maybe more than one person, and all the rest of the files had been accessed last weekend with the mark.
With all the people working in the lab around me, I wondered who.