“This is awful,” said Matilda. “After all we’ve gone through, to be treated like this…”
“What are you going to do?” asked Carver.
“Do?” I said. “I expect I’ll leave the Complex within the hour. But right at the moment, I’d love to get an account of what happened on floor 39 after I blacked out.”
“There’s really not much to tell,” said Roger Binks, rejoining us from across the room. “My card was licked, and I gated in. I took a few seconds to assess the situation, and then I dispatched Harold with a dismantler drone. When he was dead, his powers were nullified. While the others were disengaging themselves from fish cubes, I flipped the switch to turn off the fish in the sky. It was round about then that security showed up, whisked you to the infirmary, and herded us into a waiting room, where we stayed until you woke up some hours later. Everything else, you’ve been awake for.”
“And I assume the sky is indeed clear of fish?” I asked.
The others nodded.
“There’s one thing that leaves me wondering,” said Sara. Binks raised his eyebrows expectantly. “How were you able to use your powers in Harold’s dark sanctum? The rest of us had our powers nullified.”
Binks suddenly looked rather uncomfortable. “Well, I, uh…” he stammered.
“He’d been invited there before,” I said. “Hadn’t you, Binks?”
Binks sighed and nodded.
“What?” said Carver. “When?”
“It was Harold who hired me to kill Andrew,” said Binks.
“And the final piece of the puzzle clicks into place,” said Sara.
“How’d you figure it out?” Binks asked me.
“I didn’t, really,” I replied. “It was just another part of the gamble of using your card. I’m glad it paid off.”
“Aren’t we all,” said Matilda.
I lay back on the bed and savored the sensation of possessing an unworried mind. The fish were gone, and all was well. All, that is, if you left aside the life-and-death struggle for the fate of toast currently unfolding in another dimension. But you can’t spend your time worrying about things you can’t affect, and so I didn’t.
Carver pulled me out of my revery. “We should get going,” he said. “I don’t want to piss off Dimsho any more than he already is.”
“You’re right,” I said, throwing back the blanket and swinging my legs over the side of the bed. I looked down at the hospital gown I was wearing. “Has anyone seen my clothes?”
Carver waggled his fingers arcanely, there was a flash of electric blue, and I found myself fully dressed in my freshly laundered clothes.
“Thanks,” I said. “I don’t suppose you could pack up my desk, too?”
Carver pointed to the bed, and the large cardboard box that had appeared on it.
“Thanks again,” I said, stuffing the box into my right pinky finger, followed by the mysterious glowing orb. “Well,” I said, regarding the others, “I’m ready.”
“I want to stop at floor 16,” said Carver as the group of us walked to the door.
“Why? What’s there?” I asked.
“Isolation booths,” Carver replied.
When the two of us were safely in the booth, Carver took my hand and shook it warmly. “I wanted you to know that no matter what happens, you will always have allies in the League of Heroes. Aardvark mistletoe.”
“Arctic pesto makes avuncular cookies,” I said. “And thanks.”
Some time later, I, the beloved quartet, and Roger Binks were sitting in the coffee shop near the Complex sipping lattes. It was early evening.
“So, what are you going to do now?” asked Binks.
“I’m not sure yet,” I said, “but I suppose I’ll have to go independent. Or I could work for Mr. Bob.” We all had a chuckle at this.
“Well,” said Binks, “you dropped this down on floor 39.” He handed me his card. I raised an eyebrow. “It’s been cleaned,” Binks said with a smirk. I smiled and took the card. “Summon me if you have need, and I’ll be happy to assist you in any way I can,” said Binks. “And if you do decide to go independent, I could always use a partner.” He got up, crumpling his coffee cup. “Think about it,” he said with a wink.
“I will,” I said. “Thanks.”
Binks nodded. Then he was gone. We sat in silence for a while. Then Gertrude said, “Who winks at people? There’s something off about that guy.”
“Fortunately we don’t need to worry about that right now,” said Sara, not unkindly.
I turned to the beloved quartet and said, “What shall we do, my dears?”
“Let’s go home,” said Gail in one of her rare moments of unity.
We stepped out of the coffee shop under the lovely fish-free sky and made our way through the city to our small piece of habitat. As we turned the corner onto our street, our eyes were greeted by the sight of a lovely landscaped pond where our house should have been.
“Son of a bitch,” said Gertrude.