I was treated to blank stares for a few moments. Then Heather said, “It’s a what?”
“It’s an atmospheric fish generation detector,” I repeated. “It pinpoints the nearest location of any device or machine that is currently causing fish to appear in the sky.”
“Good idea,” said Carver. “How does it work?”
I stood up. “You hit the ‘send’ button, and the location appears on the screen.” I flipped open the one-time cell phone and pressed the “send” button with my thumb. “Like so.” Everyone gathered around and peered at the device. After a brief time, Gertrude said, “I don’t see anything but some staticky dots and slashes.”
“Yes, well, I didn’t have time to create a user-friendly interface.” I explained. “But I can read it.” So saying, I examined the screen. Then I groaned.
“What is it?” asked Carver.
“The machine that’s generating the fish is on floor 39,” I said. It was Carver’s turn to groan.
Floor 39 is something of a legend at the Complex. Many claim that it’s simply a myth and doesn’t exist, but just as many others claim vehemently that it is real, and that they have seen it. None of these witnesses have ever been able to find their way back to floor 39 to prove its existence, however. Furthermore, no two witnesses have given the same description of the floor’s appearance.
The janitor is the only person believed to know for sure whether floor 39 is real. Unfortunately, the janitor doesn’t talk about it, and it is quite impossible to pin him down and question him on the matter. Or on any matter. Such are the qualities required of the Janitor of the Complex of the League of Heroes. And so the legend of floor 39 persists.
“We may as well pack it in,” said Carver. He was one of the unbelievers.
“No way,” I said firmly. “There’s too much at stake.” Personally, I was a floor 39 agnostic.
“How are you going to find something that doesn’t exist?” Carver demanded.
“If the detector says it’s there, floor 39 must exist,” I said. Carver shook his head but said nothing. “Let’s look at this sensibly,” I continued. “Our first asset is you. You know the most about the ways of the Complex. Your navigational capabilities are the talk of the department.”
Carver utterly failed to look modest. “True,” he said.
“And I’m no slouch, either,” I continued. “There have even been times that I’ve given you the runaround. Remember that time when you had me on the Branson project?”
“I remember,” said Carver, a little testily.
“And Sara, here, knows what I know. With your permission, she can know what you know as well. With her mind, she can provide an extremely valuable perspective.” Sara blushed.
Carver shook his head. “I still don’t see how that’s going to help us find something that doesn’t exist.” I was about to raise another protest, but he held his hand up. “Nevertheless, I’m prepared to make the attempt.” I smiled. Carver clapped me on the shoulder. “Lead on, Andrew. We’re behind you.”