“Huh.” I stared into the distance as I wondered how exactly we’d handle a faerie invasion, and also, why they’d bother.
I happened to have aimed my staring vaguely in the direction of the door, and so I was watching as Samita and Tara walk though the magically guarded doorway.
Technically, I heard Tara before I saw her. Her voice cut through the silence, a torrent of words with barely any space between them. She was very excited about whatever it was.
As she stepped through the door, the first intelligible word I heard was, “—bananas! Of course they weren’t real bananas. The Paperclips, a scientist cult, had created a kind of bacteria that tasted like bananas, but grew on rotting food. My dad would take me to an ice cream shop that froze it in layers with chocolate and ice cream. I’ve never found anything like it here.”
Samita nodded and frowned briefly. “I can’t imagine that you would find much that grows on rotting food, but a lot of desserts combine banana, chocolate and ice cream.”
Rod didn’t give her the chance to reply. “Did you say rotting food?”
Tara hesitated for a second, but then said, “I know it sounds terrible, but the Paperclips had decided to solve world hunger—all the worlds’ hunger—and what would be better to turn into good food than rotting food?”
“Look,” Rod said, “I’ll be the first to admit that my standards when I’m a troll aren’t high, but weren’t you at least a little worried?”
Tara shook her head. “No. We knew one of the Paperclips. He’d done tests that proved it was perfectly safe, and it was. No one got sick, and it worked better than their next project.”
Amy grinned. “And what was their next project?”
Tara met her eyes. “They started on meat. They genetically modified some pigs to be small enough to live in an apartment, but to grow very large, very quickly if you had the food to feed them. Oh, and also they ate rats because there was a rat problem.”
Rod folded his hands across his chest. “That doesn’t sound that bad. I’m not sure I’d want to eat pigs that ate rats, but I guess it works.”
Tara shook her head. “When they grew, they stopped caring about rats. They went after bigger game—dogs, cats… people.”
Amy covered her mouth with her hand. Rod stared, and said, “Fuck.”
Samita asked, “What did you do?”
Tara shrugged. “It was back when both my parents were alive. We were living in Infinity City and they were paid to protect a city block. Once they understood what was going on, they organized a hunt, killed them all, and we had an amazing barbecue. Of course we had to move on after that. Too many of the wrong people had seen us.”
She smiled for a moment, “Strange as it sounds to you, it was a good time.”
Rod snorted. “It’s Infinity City. I’m prepared to believe anything.”
Amy raised an eyebrow. “Infinity City?”
Sliding further onto my computer desk, Rod said, “It exists in multiple dimensions, maybe all of them.”
Nodding, Amy said, “I think I might have heard of it, but under a different name.”
“Hey,” I said. “We probably ought start talking about our strategy for the tournament. I don’t think we’ve got more than an hour if we want to make the tail end of supper.”
Rod checked the computer screen, and pushed himself off the desk, saying, “I didn’t know it was that late.”
We all grabbed chairs, and sat around my worktable. I’d cleared it before everyone arrived this time. It was better than having to tell people not to touch roachbots, experimental weapons, or Rocket suit parts.
Tara sat up in her chair, waiting as we all got settled, and then saying, “It looks like we can start. We need to come up with strategies and tactics for fighting each of the three groups, knowing that we’ll only have to fight two. Nick, you were already beginning to analyze the other groups when we were there. Please continue.”
It was as if she were a different person. She’d entered the lab moving her hands as she’d talked about ice cream. Now she sat, intently watching each of our reactions. I knew what made the difference.
“Sure,” I said. “We’ve got group 1 which includes two hand to hand fighters, and three people with area of effect attacks, two of whom are mobile.
“Group 3 has two speedsters and three hand fighters. Group 4 has two flying bricks, but also has a speedster, a guy with force fields, and a guy with a bow.”
I’d never been completely sure how marksmanship with a bow and arrow was equivalent to a superpower. It looked like I’d get the chance to find out.
The corners of Tara’s mouth curved into a hint of a smile.
“What about our group?” She asked.
I thought about it. “We’ve got two people who are good with magic, one massive hand to hand fighter, an inventor, and one hand to hand fighter with an unusual head for tactics. I’d say the way we stand out from each group is in flexibility.”