The first thing that came into my head was, “Can you see where he is, or where he’s gone?”
“No,” Kayla’s voice paused and a mouse clicked in the background. “There aren’t very many spybots around here. I mean, except for the ones you just released.”
She was right. I’d mainly focused on major intersections, and there weren’t many of those around here. Worse, there were longer than normal blocks this far out, making corners even easier to avoid.
“I might be able to track them,” Haley’s voice trailed off. She knew, as we all did, that a long jump could throw off her sense of smell. We’d need all of us to pull that off. Plus, The Thing appeared to be good at sneaking around.
“We could try looking for a little while,” I suggested, and we did, but we didn’t find anything.
In the end, we went back to the university and attended our classes, almost as much out of a need to do something even if it wasn’t something that got us any closer to finding the The Thing—either of them—and for all I knew Alden too by then.
Finally, I contacted Hal and asked him if he might be willing to watch the spybots’ feeds for signs of The Thing That Eats. If nothing else, it might give the League jet’s AI something more to do than troll Internet forums in the name of science.
It was lucky for me that I didn’t find classes particularly hard because my mind wasn’t in any way on them and I found myself constantly checking my phone for progress from Hal (none), checking the headlines on the websites of local TV stations for news (nothing), and calculating how long it would take for The Thing to eat everyone in the city and surrounding suburbs (depressing).
You had to consider a lot of variables. For example, average distance between victims, speed that The Thing moves, time required to eat victims, maximum number of copies of the thing, maximum number of victims that can be eaten before satiation, time required before more victims were required, and so on…
My worst case scenario allowed The Thing That Eats to devour Grand Lake and its surrounding suburbs within hours. That assumed unlimited eating, unlimited reproduction, no satiation, and near instantaneous eating.
Haley found me in the Student Union refining the “Time Required for The Thing to Eat Everyone” equation. I was sitting on a stool at one of the higher tables with my laptop open. I’d put the equation into an Excel spreadsheet to make it easier to plug in numbers based on different assumptions.
Taking in the laptop, my expression, my smell, heart rate and other cues, she said, “What are you doing?”
“Calculating the time we have left until the extinction of humanity,” I said. “Worst case scenarios gives the world less than a month. Those of us in Grand Lake get less than a day under similar assumptions.”
She gave the spreadsheet a closer look. “Um… Could you explain all of this? I’m going to need less equations and more words.”
When I was finished, she took my hand. “Then why is Grand Lake still here? Even with your slower scenarios, it could have taken over by now if it wanted to.”
“I don’t know. The same reason it didn’t destroy Turkmenistan’s capital, I guess. From what we saw there, it ate people, but quietly in the background. Even in Amy’s story, it destroyed a kingdom, but a small one. It didn’t destroy the Roman Empire.”
Haley frowned. “Maybe it’s being cautious? It knows people can destroy it, and not just Amy, so it doesn’t take on more than it can handle. That’s what successful predators do.”
I thought about it and we sat there, holding hands. “That might be it. Though knowing where it comes from, it might just be waiting for the right time to destroy everything.”
“Maybe.” Haley glanced from one side to the other, possibly more for my benefit than because she needed to. In any case, no one was close enough to hear. “But your laser worked on it and even normal people could use one of those.”
Nodding, I said, “Yeah. Normal people might not have them, but they could use them if they did. You know what’s interesting. The Thing was hiding, and we couldn’t find it, but when a gang full of supers and a former Cabal soldier appeared, it shows up.”
Haley blinked. “That’s it. I think that you’ve got something there. If we put up the right bait, I bet we could make it appear because now it’s got two Cabal people and a speedster.”
I leaned back in my chair and thought about it. “Whoa. Yeah, that is weird. It’s definitely picking up people with powers.”