Remembering the lion’s advice, I stayed as close to the reality I was in as I could. I didn’t make an effort to let sound reach my ears, and so I floated through the wall in an eerie silence.
I happened to check the other side of the wall as I floated through. The cheap, fake wood paneling turned out to be just as fake as I’d guessed. Wooden beams and plywood held it up. The real, concrete basement walls were three feet further back, and between them sat machines. Maybe my brother would have been able to name each one instantly, but I couldn’t.
On the other hand, maybe Nick wouldn’t have been able to recognize them either. They didn’t look high end. Improvised would have been a kind word for it. Think computer desktops without the covers, and circuit boards with wires soldered on and leading from the boards across the floor and into the wood paneled walls.
I recognized the electrical outlets at least. Every plug was filled, and each electrical cord led to a surge protector filled with a spaghetti mess of more extension cords.
Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 13
“She’s not,” Travis said.
Rod raised an eyebrow. “How do you know?”
“Remember when she was negotiating how much the Blue Leader’s cut would be? I could hear both sides of the conversation. She’s running off to meet the guy now, and then they’re coming back here. The place might be bugged, but she doesn’t have time to pay attention to us now.”
Travis gave everyone a confident smile. “Now we’ve just got to figure how we’ll escape.”
Tara turned away from the wall to say, “But how? She took everything that might help.”
Still sounding confident, Travis said, “I don’t know, but this is our best chance. The League’s been in worse situations than this, and survived. I’m sure you have too. I’m sure if we keep our minds on the goal, we’ll get out.”
And right there, that was the football player coming out. I’d heard him with his team, oh, dozens of times it seemed like while we were together, and he’d sounded exactly like that. Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 12
We didn’t even have time to start thinking for ourselves before we heard Julie’s voice again. Loudly, she said, “No one move!”
After a series of clicks, the lights came on and the door opened.
Julie stomped back into the room, took a breath, and glared at us as if whatever she was angry about were our fault.
“I hate clients interrupting me. When they do it again and again, I forget things. You know what I forgot? This. All of you, take off anything that might help you escape, even if it means you have to strip naked, and put it in a pile in front of me. Right there.”
She pointed at a spot on the fake wooden floor. Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 11
The ride didn’t seem long, but for all I knew Julie’s voice might have messed with my sense of time. She kept talking the whole time—when she wasn’t questioning us.
She talked to Samita first. “Tell me your name and what you can do that got you into the program. Be quick.”
Samita and Rod sat in the seats behind the driver. Julie had put herself in the third row with Tara and told Travis and I to sit in the fourth.
Samita cleared her throat. “I’m Samita Nanda. I’m being trained as a wizard, and specialize in creating objects with magical powers.”
Julie leaned her head back. I could only guess at her expression. “You do magic? What have you got?”
“Got? A ring. It protects me against being hurt. They told us not to bring anything obvious.”
“How does it work? Like a force field?”
Samita shook her head. “No. It’s just luck, but a very specific kind of luck.”
Julie leaned forward. “It isn’t doing you much good now.”
Samita frowned for a moment. “Technically, I haven’t been hurt.” Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 10
I didn’t move. It didn’t even occur to me that I could. Listening felt like the most natural thing in the world to do. How could anyone argue with that voice? You just wanted to obey it.
I kept facing straight ahead, so I don’t know where Julie came from—just that she came from behind and to the left. I didn’t even know what was on that side of the street because Travis and I had been talking, and apparently neither one of us had been paying enough attention.
She stood in front of Travis and I, looking the two of us over. Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 9
Did cellphone service even make it out here? Normal cellphone service, that is. It didn’t surprise me that the League’s somehow did, but who knew how Nick had managed it.
I took the call even though I was tempted to ignore it. Mom and I didn’t always get along.
“Mom, I… didn’t expect to hear from you. It’s a program weekend, so I might not be able to talk long.”
“Did I catch you at a bad time?”
She caught me off guard with that question. It depended on your definition of bad. On the one hand, we’d barely avoided meeting up with xenophobic, superpowered killers, and an alternate version of my ex-boyfriend’s stalker. On the other hand, neither one was around right now.
Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 8
Tara bit her lip, and said, “Let’s talk about it outside.”
It didn’t take long to go outside. We passed the concrete lions without anything weird happening, and found ourselves standing on the grass next to the river again. Tara kept walking until we were out of earshot of any of the other people.
Well, out of normal earshot—Travis could hear every conversation on the lawn, and right then I was grateful for it.
Tara looked both ways before she said anything. “I was going to tell you about them. It’s a standard part of the tour, but with me being who I am, it gets… complicated.”
No one said anything while she paused.
Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 7
I told them the whole story, explaining the statue and a little bit about what’s like to phase out. I finished with, “Julie’s not here anymore. I think we’ll be safe leaving after lunch.”
Tara had stopped eating while I talked. When I stopped, she started, her words coming out all at once, moving her hands as she talked, “So that’s how they keep tabs on everybody—I bet they’re listening to all of us. And you wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard about people who started fights here. They completely disappeared! I wonder if they’d talk to me if said hi on the way out?”
Rod opened his mouth a couple times when it almost seemed like the torrent of words would stop, but said nothing, looking frustrated. Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 6
“Or,” I said, “if the Julie out there had a completely different problem which was worse.”
Tara broke in before I could continue or Travis could reply. “I think you both made good points. Julie’s powerful, and we don’t know what she’ll want to do because she doesn’t have the same history as our universe’s Julie. We’ll need to be careful on the way out. Does anybody have earplugs?”
Samita furrowed her brows, concentrating, and then started to talk. “I could have blocked out the sound around us, but I don’t have any idea where to get the materials I’d need.”
Tara smiled. “I’m sure I could help. We’d have to—”
“Leave,” Rod said, “and then we’d have to walk around deaf all day. I remember that spell. You used it when we ran into the banshee, remember?”
Samita held up her hand. “I know you didn’t like it, but it worked.”
Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 5
“Travis, don’t look now, but remember Julie? She’s over there, and there’s no way she came with us.”
Travis didn’t look. He smiled at me calmly, as if we were talking about something pleasant. He handled it better than I thought he would. “I smelled her. I’ve been pretending not to see her.”
“Good.” It took all of my self-control not to check whether she’d noticed us.
I remembered the briefing. You don’t mess with alternate versions of yourself or anyone you know. It’s right up there with going back in time to kill your grandfather—a dumb, dumb idea. You never knew what forces shaped them, and it was so easy to assume you were talking with the person you know.
Look, I may not always trust authority figures, but I listen when they’re talking sense.
Continue reading Rachel in Infinity City: Part 4