Nicholas’ eyes darted over toward the table where his grandfather had opened a bottle of wine. “Uh… Let’s start walking.”
He pointed toward the nearest doorway. Amy raised an eyebrow, and they walked past a metal shelf that was covered with gears and a machine whose purpose Amy couldn’t even guess at.
When they reached the stairway, Nicholas said, “That way. I’ll show you the way up.”
The stairway wasn’t much. Only wide enough for one person to walk, the stairs were worn brown tile, accompanied by cracked, white plaster walls.
“You know,” Amy said, following him up, “if they were listening, leaving the room won’t make them less suspicious.”
Nicholas glanced back, frowning. “I know. I couldn’t think of anything I felt comfortable saying back there. I don’t know what the Harcourts are like, but… Well… Okay. Daniel’s probably my closest friend in the world. Our families live far from here normally. We’re in the Western Lakes Confederacy’s territory. It’s a thousand miles from here. Anyway, he visited with us last time, and we got in a little trouble.”
He stepped into a room and she followed him in. The third floor appeared to be almost entirely filled with row upon row of brass capped cylinders mounted upright against short walls. In the middle of the room stood a disc that was approximately a foot thick. Silver on the sides and black on top, it stood ten feet away from anything but small podium made of wood and brass.
Amy guessed that the podium contained controls for the disc. Wires led from it to the disc. Wires from each row of cylinders combined into one thick cable that led into the side of the disc.
“Watch out for the cables,” Nicholas said. “They’re all shielded, but they carry a lot of power. If the shielding’s even a little too thin, you could die.”
Amy stared at the device. “What is all this?”
“A dimensional gateway. My grandfather found it. The cylinders are batteries—dry cell, if you care. It takes a lot of power—over 1.21 gigawatts.”
Amy took the whole room in. “That’s a lot of electricity then?”
Nicholas stared at her.
Her lip curled. “I’m trained in magic, but you’ll find my understanding of technology lacking.”
He shrugged. “Sorry. I thought you might want to see it before tomorrow. We’re sending you… Well, somewhere. Actually, another of my friends is coming by to help with that. He’s studying weather magic, and he’ll be creating lightning to power it.”
“They’re sending me to another universe?” Amy walked toward the disc, stopping a few feet away. The black disc reflected no light, becoming a sea of darkness except where threads of silver ran across the top of the disc.
Nicholas nodded. “That’s my understanding. We’re supposed to find someplace you’ll find comfortable, but not too comfortable, and someplace you might be able to get back from, but not easily. Basically, someplace that will challenge you.”
She turned around to meet his eyes. “Who gave that order?”
Nicholas put his hands in his pockets and walked toward her. “I don’t think it was an order. Anyway, I’m not sure. It’s what my grandfather told me before you arrived. I’m guessing it’s not the Harcourts. Your guess is probably better.”
Deciding not to say her guess, she looked up at his face. He had blue eyes. She hadn’t noticed that before. “You never told me exactly how you and Daniel got in trouble.”
Nicholas smiled. “Nothing impressive. Daniel’s family has a talent for telling the future. Anyway, on the streets, there are people who play a game where someone hides a marble under a cup, and you’re supposed to guess which cup he hid it under. The problem is there are three cups, and sometimes these guys cheat.
“Well, Daniel can predict where it will be—even if the crook palmed it. It was pretty funny the first couple times. They had to give him the money, but the problem is they were crooks, and we weren’t even all the way down the block before a bunch of thugs showed up to take the money back.”
She looked him up and down. He didn’t look particularly strong, and if he fought the same way he talked, she didn’t like his chances. “What happened?”
He froze. “Well…”
Then he said, “Our grandfathers met during the Nightmare War, and we’ve both trained with Captain Lee. Between that and a few things I happened to be carrying, the thugs became very badly hurt and decided to run away.”
“Excellent,” she said. “This the first time I’ve ever been in New Amsterdam, and it’s likely to be the last. I’d like to do something other than sit in my room. You can be my bodyguard.”
Nicholas frowned. “Are you sure? Don’t you want to do more than that?”
Amy raised an eyebrow, “What exactly are you meaning by that?”
Nicholas’ eyes widened. “Not what you’re thinking I mean, I bet. No, I mean that my grandfather doesn’t like the idea of exiling you to another dimension. You’re traveling with a pair of assassins. I’ve read Imperial history. They’re probably going to kill you. If you want to escape, we could arrange something. It’d look like an accident. We’d send you, and only you, someplace where we have friends.”
She thought about not leaving. It wasn’t what her father wanted, but wasn’t New Amsterdam far enough? She felt the corners of her eyes moisten, and blinked. She wasn’t going to cry just because she’d met someone sympathetic. Besides, he didn’t know the whole story.
Trying to keep her voice upbeat, she said, “How about we discuss it somewhere else?”