Emmy looked from me over to Tara, “Do either of you know what happened to Victor?”
Eyeing Tara, I hoped she took the hint. Or to put it another way, I hoped she chose to take the hint. She almost certainly got it and if she failed to notice, it could only be that she had a bigger problem on her mind.
For a moment, I thought I saw the hint of a smile as Tara responded, most likely guessing at my thoughts. “No one knows. He teleported away. If I had to bet, he’s with the Nine and he’s telling them how he can turn the True into an unstoppable army under their command if they’ll just give him the money.”
Emmy frowned. “He’s so wrong. I don’t even understand how someone can be that messed up in the head. If he does that, he’s doing it with copies of me that have been twisted into I don’t know what.”
She stopped, eyes widening as she looked over at Tara. “I don’t have anything against you or your father.”
Tara shook her head. “You’re right. They’re twisted and they become more twisted once they go on their own. I can’t tell you everything, but in a lot of universes they come to believe that their creator was using them, turn on him, and then turn on the entire world.”
Emmy took a breath, watching Tara, and when Tara didn’t continue, she said, “What happens after that?”
Tara shrugged. “It depends. Sometimes the True are destroyed. Sometimes they destroy everyone else and then start on themselves. It’s hard to predict.”
Leaning back against a concrete wall, Emmy sighed. “You’re making me wish I still smoked. The way you talked about it before, it sounded like I had a choice about whether or not you trained me, but I don’t think I really have a choice, do I?”
Tara’s eyes glazed over. “You don’t have to, but your chances of survival are much higher if you do.”
Emmy looked up at her, showing a hint of a frown. “That’s not a choice.”
Tara nodded. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to help you better.”
Emmy pushed herself away from the wall, checked the back of her skirt for something, maybe concrete dust, and decided it was good enough to stop and say, “I think I should get back to my desk. I’m sure they won’t fire me for cooperating with you, but they expect me to be there.”
Stepping back as Emmy took a step forward, Tara put a hand on her shoulder, “I’ll give you my contact information before I leave for the day, okay?”
When Emmy nodded, Tara pulled her in for a hug. Emmy’s eyes widened at first, but let herself be pulled in and held each other for a little while. I don’t know what Emmy felt, but she didn’t walk away as quickly as she’d been going. So, maybe she felt better.
She had every excuse not to feel better. Finding out that the creepy guy you’ve been avoiding made a clone army of you and offered it up to one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world doesn’t happen every day.
All the people that the Dominators had reprogrammed into puppets could argue that worse possibilities existed out there in the world, but they wouldn’t because the majority might not even realize it had happened.
Tara put on her mask and we walked out, giving Emmy a wave and exchanging goodbyes. We walked out the front and I looked over the semi-trucks parked there, both of them waiting to be filled with evidence, and then over to the helicopter pad. It was empty.
I wondered where Ronnie was. He’d seemed nice enough as security guys went, and hadn’t he said he had baby on the way? Or maybe he’d just been talking about what he’d do if he had a kid. Something like that. I didn’t remember off the top of my head. Either way, someone out there knew he hadn’t come home last night. He’d been among those the Feds had picked up afterward. Though someone with powers, we’d left him too hurt to participate in the final battle in the garage. He’d lain in the hallway until a Box came.
We were far enough away by then that we were out of earshot of anyone near the building, walking on one of the trails that led toward the fenced-in parking area. It wasn’t a bad day either. The smell of Lake Michigan and even a hint of the sound of waves had made it passed the forest. It was warm enough that walking to the lake sounded like a good idea even though I knew it wouldn’t be.
By October, Lake Michigan always turned cold.
As we stood on the far edge of the clearing and the beginning of the forest, Tara asked, “What’s bothering you?”
“Nothing, really. I’m just thinking about Ronnie. We fought him last night. He was the guy with laser eyes. He’s probably in the hospital. I was just thinking that I’ve fought a lot of faceless mooks, but it’s a little different when you know one of the mooks. He might have a kid. I can’t say I feel bad. The guy was firing potentially lethal eye-beams, and it’s not like I took him out. He got hit by lightning. It’s just a little weird.
“Did you hear anything about what happened with Russell Hardwick?”
Tara put her hand on my shoulder, “Not much. Agent Lim told me that a judge had denied bail, saying that he was too much of a flight risk since he owned houses outside the US and was wealthy enough that he never had to come back if he didn’t want to.”
She cocked her head. “The judge was right. He’s got no chance of staying CEO of Hardwick Industries after this even if he gets off. And if he goes to prison, he’s got powers, so they’ll send him into supervillain Supermax. There’s no reason for him to stick around after that.”
I scanned the area around us with my glasses. No one was close. “There’s family. He’s got a son named Lucas. He’s a doctor and seems nice enough. Plus, there’s Vaughn’s aunt. Though I suppose if he did go into hiding, his family could still visit.”
Tara’s mouth twisted. “Living in hiding is terrible. With prison, you know you might someday get out. When you’re in hiding, you just keep on running.”
Given that her family had spent her entire childhood hiding, she’d know. Related to that, another thought struck me, “How are you doing?”
She looked down at the dirt trail and then back up at me. “Not well. We didn’t stop Victor or the True. We almost stopped them, but they’re still out there. Emmy’s at risk. The world doesn’t know that the True are copies of her, but they will eventually.”
She blinked. “I think we can keep her safe, but I don’t know for sure. Are you going to mind if I stick around here after the internship is over?”
“I can’t speak for the team, but it should be fine.”
She looked back at Hardwick Industries’ long, twin, white buildings. “I feel like we’re on the edge of something. It’s not just the True, but they’re part of it, and no, I don’t know anything. I feel like the information I need is just out of reach.”
I thought about the last four years–the Cabal, the Hrrnna, Stapledon, our trip into space, Lee, Kee, the Cosmic Ghosts, and all the changes in our lives. I didn’t know what it added up to either, but it did feel like something was happening.
Tara took her hand from my shoulder. “I should get you back to the car lot. I’ve got a few more people to check for signs of working for the Nine, Dominator influence, or both.”
“Sounds fun,” I said.
She shook her head, “It’s not bad. It’s a day. Tomorrow will be another day.”