On a Saturday morning two weeks later Haley and I drove to Chicago. It was early March, and February’s snow melted on each side of the freeway, brownish near the road.
Two weeks seems like an awfully long wait when you consider that there may be aliens out there who want to cause all of humanity to die horribly. It’s more understandable when you think about the logistics of it all. Initially we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for. All the ship knew was that a suspiciously large number of objects that used materials common to alien technology were going through the postal service, UPS, Fedex and other mailing services in or near Chicago. They were being picked up from P.O. Boxes, and delivered to empty buildings, and from there they disappeared.
Except we’d found a common name between a couple of the post office boxes, and a signature—Chancy as in Chancy Smith, Chancy Jones, and Chancy Sirianni.
I had a hunch, and I’d directed the ship to search whatever it could find that had Chancy in the name, and it had.
It searched through titles and old phone books that had been scanned in and put on the internet. It eventually found a business that had appeared in one form or another since the 1920’s, generally on the north side of Chicago.
It didn’t have a building any more, but it did have a P.O. Box. And a website…
“Chancy Connections?” Haley stared at her phone, flipping it sideways to widen the screen.
We were riding in the van. We’d discussed taking the Wolfmobile, Haley’s grandfather’s car, but decided not to. The van, especially when I’d set the paint to be white, practically turned invisible in a city, passing for a delivery vehicle, or something any tradesman might use for hauling equipment/portable toolshed.
The Wolfmobile looked like a Corvette Stingray from the 60’s even in its civilian appearance. In short, it stood out.
“It’s some kind of shipping business? ‘Chancy Connections’? They’re trying to tell people that they might or might not get there?”
Haley shook her head. “And the website looks awful—like the owner hired his twelve year old nephew to do it.”
“True,” I said, keeping my eyes on the road, but occasionally checking the GPS. “But I think he’s got a captive audience. The website says he finds custom materials and arranges shipping. I’m pretty sure what he’s really doing is shopping for aliens, and sending it to them. You know what’s crazy? Once the ship really started looking, we could find this guy’s signature on things as far back as the 1920’s. His name is Chancy Harris, and I think he’s part of some underground alien support network—if that makes any sense.”
Haley looked up from her phone. “I guess. They’d have to have something. I’m surprised you found it that easily though.”
“It wasn’t easy,” I said. “The only reason I got anywhere is because I pointed the League jet’s AI at it. It probably would have taken me years to go through the same material. Plus, you know how we’ve got access to some government databases? I let him use them.”
Haley raised an eyebrow. “Does Isaac know?”
“I don’t think so.”
Neither one of us said anything for a little while after that, both of us probably thinking the same thing—the Feds probably hadn’t intended for us to hand our access over to an alien battle simulation AI.
Our talk turned to other things while I drove. It wasn’t a bad drive—three hours by van starting at 7am and arriving at 9am thanks to the Eastern to Central time zone change.
At 9am, Chicago traffic was still worse than Grand Lake generally got but was pretty good for Chicago.
We took South Lake Shore Drive north toward the University of Chicago. It may not have been the best way to go, but it gave a good view of water a lot of the time.
Lake Michigan lay to our right, the black water free of the mounds of snow and ice near the shore where we lived.
Snow still lay on the ground, but not much, more of a dusting than the two icy inches that had thawed and frozen a few different times in Grand Lake.
Haley looked out the window as I drove. “You know, we ought to come here for fun sometime. I’m sure it wouldn’t be any more work than sneaking down here for this.”
I turned left, away from Lake Michigan and toward the University of Chicago. “Sure,” I said. “It could be fun, but it would be a long day. Three hours up and three hours back would leave us both completely fried.”
“It wouldn’t be something to do all the time, but maybe we could find a way stay overnight. Daniel’s here, and I’ve got cousins in Chicago. I’m sure we could work it out.”
Haley talked about places she’d gone with her cousins, and it did sound fun. As we neared the university’s campus, I started watching for Daniel and Izzy.
It looked like a nice campus—lots of trees, and genuinely old buildings, some of them literally covered with ivy. Of course, none of it was green then. Brown vines snaked across stone buildings and trees with bare branches seemed to be every few feet down the parkways.
A few students walked down the sidewalks, some talking and laughing.
I wondered what it would be like to go there.
Haley glanced over at me. “You know what I’ve been worrying about? What if I see Daniel and Izzy and can’t stop thinking about what we were saying a couple weeks ago? That would be so embarrassing.”
What had we been talking about a couple weeks ago? Mostly about what we’d do next, but also whether… Oh. That.
As we passed a three story, red brick building that looked like it might be a residence hall, I noticed that Daniel and Izzy stood at the end of the block, their hands almost touching.
Izzy laughed at something Daniel said, and all kinds of embarrassing things passed through my mind.