As usual, Lisa dropped to the sidewalk a good four blocks away from the Lee Intro School. It was nearly six o'clock, an hour past sundown, and even with the streetlights shining brightly she had no problem finding a doorway dark enough for her to surreptitiously stuff the two wads of tissues into the training bra she'd borrowed from Sheelah's dresser. Daryl had always seemed nervous about being seen with her until she'd hit upon this way to make herself look older. It had helped, but only for a while, and over the last couple of weeks he'd started acting a little funny again. Distant, sort of. Hopefully, though, the few drops of perfume she'd managed to scrounge would help bring him back around. Sniffing at her wrists, she checked to make sure the flight hadn't blown the scent away.
Daryl was waiting by their usual bench when she arrived, turning the latest book nervously end over end. Playfully, she used her teekay to freeze it suddenly in midair. His eyes bulged for a split second before he looked up at her with obvious irritation. "Knock it off, Lisa," he hissed.
"Hello, Daryl," she said demurely, releasing the book.
"Hi," he grumbled. "You have the other one with you? Good—give it here. All right, now, this one shouldn't have any new words that you can't get from the pictures; if there are any you can't figure out, mark them and we'll talk on Friday. Okay?" He took a step back toward the school.
"Wait a second," Lisa said, puzzled and alarmed. "What's the rush? Anything wrong?"
"Of course not," he said, a little too quickly. "I just can't stay out here all night."
"All night? It's only—
"Lisa, I've got to go," he interrupted brusquely, and for a second she was a kid again, standing in front of her preteen overseer. "I'll see you on Friday; don't be late."
Numbly, she watched as he strode back toward Lee Intro, his figure alternately clear and indistinct as he passed under the row of streetlights. The abruptness of his manner had scared her down to her toes—something was wrong, and she had no idea what it could be. Had he been caught passing her books? After her library experience she could easily imagine such a thing's getting him in trouble. Perhaps someone had been watching tonight's meeting—maybe that was why he'd left so quickly. Frantically, she looked around, but she couldn't see anyone.
Daryl was nearly a block away by now. Carefully, trying to match his speed, Lisa set off after him, a new suspicion growing in her mind. He passed Lee Intro without pausing and continued on the three blocks to the Paris Introductory School. He went in the front door while Lisa, not wanting to hang around in plain sight, found a dark tree midway between two streetlights and flew up into it. She didn't have long to wait; a moment later Daryl reemerged, accompanied by a teen woman, and together they headed toward the commercial area near the two schools. Their voices carried distinctly in the still air, and though Lisa couldn't catch many of the words, it was clear they were having a good time. They passed under a light, giving Lisa a glimpse of the teen's long blonde hair, and she noticed for the first time that they were holding hands as they walked. Laughing and chattering, they rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.
A moment later Lisa was high overhead, streaking toward Barona's northern power station and trying to make some sense out of the jumble of emotions chasing each other through her mind. It was a relief, of course, to have her worst fears proved wrong... and yet, at the same time, the real reason for Daryl's behavior had her so mad she could hardly see straight. How dare he treat her like some pestering kid and then sneak off to be with some stupid teen woman? He was acting just like one of those preteens who belonged to secret clubs and wouldn't say anything about them to outsiders. He could simply have told her he had a date—she would have understood. It was the way he'd dumped her that was so infuriating.
Even with the cool wind whipping past, she felt the rush of heat that rose to her face. She had absolutely no interest in Daryl as anything except a teacher—none at all. Was it her pride that had been bruised so badly, the fact that Daryl's interest could switch so easily to someone else? Because she wasn't jealous. Really. Wasn't.
Abruptly, she reached up her sweater and angrily ripped the tissues out of her bra, flinging them as far as she could away from her. No more pretending to be something she wasn't for anyone.
She'd planned on spending at least half an hour going over parts of the new book with Daryl and was consequently some forty-five minutes early for her shift at the power station. For a moment she considered waiting outside, but there really weren't any places nearby that had both the privacy and light she needed to read. Leaving her book on the power station roof near one of the skylights, she went inside.
The adult supervisor didn't seem surprised to see her so soon. "Lisa Duncan," he nodded, marking something on his clipboard. "You're sure racking up the extra points these days. This is, what, the fourth time in as many weeks you've signed for nighttime power duty? You must be planning to go into science or medicine or something."
"Extra points are nice to have," she said noncommittally. "Should I go ahead and start now or wait until I'm supposed to?"
"Whichever." The man peered through the square of glass set into one of the office's doors. "Charl's doing okay, I think, but he'd probably appreciate a little help. If you start now you get to quit early, too."
"Okay." Nodding to him, Lisa teeked open the door and walked into the big room.
The north power station, the newest of Barona's three, had been built with each of its four flywheels in a separate room, which was the reason Lisa had signed specifically to work here. Charl, a preteen from a different hive, was slouched in a chair near the flywheel's side, gazing at the spinning wheel with an unblinking expression that was both tired and somewhat resentful. Lisa knew his type instantly: he'd probably fooled around most of his life, losing points for disobedience and never volunteering for the extra work that could make them up. Now, with Transition bearing down on him, he was trying desperately to make up for lost time. Teeking over a chair for herself, she sat down a few meters away from him and got to work.
He left an hour later, never having acknowledged Lisa's presence by so much as a glance. That was fine with her; still smarting from the whole thing with Daryl, she wasn't much in the mood for conversation.
One of the technicians on duty came in a few minutes later to check some readings, followed almost immediately by the supervisor, who was checking something else. Lisa waited until they were gone, and then, still watching the flywheel, flew up to the ceiling skylight and opened it. Reaching out, she picked up her book and dropped back to her chair, glancing once at the office door to make sure she hadn't been seen. The Story of Our Trip to Tigris, the book's cover said. Settling back into her seat, Lisa opened it and held it out at nearly arm's length, an awkward position for reading but the only one she'd found that also let her see the flywheel well enough to continue teeking it. The need to keep some of her attention on her work cut her reading speed considerably and made it necessary to put off all writing exercises until later, but she didn't mind. There were very few jobs where she had the necessary privacy to do any reading at all, and fewer still where she could earn extra points at the same time. And those points were becoming increasingly important to her as even the very simple books Daryl had given her hinted at facts and ideas which she had never before heard of. There were a lot of unknowns out there, she was beginning to realize, and the more schooling she could get the better would be her chances of learning about them.
And so she sat and read, learning for the first time how the huge flying ships had first brought people to the world. So completely did the book and flywheel hold her attention that she never even noticed the technician who got three steps into the room before seeing her and beating a silent retreat... nor the supervisor who stood at the window for several minutes afterward with a grim expression on his face.
Through the gauze curtain surrounding the two chairs, the tabernacle's candles were blurry globes of light, flickering like uneasy spirits with every passing breeze. The effect always reminded Omega of a particularly gruesome horror story he'd been frightened by back when he was a kid, one reason he generally didn't take confessions at night. But any rule had its exceptions.
"Speak, young Heir of Truth," he nodded at the shadowy figure across from him.
Weylin Ellery was still a little breathless from his sixty-kilometer flight south—though teeking didn't require any real muscular effort, it wasn't easy to breathe with the air hitting your face at eighty kilometers an hour. "O Prophet, I bring news of Detective First Tirrell and his investigation." He paused for a deep breath. "He's been trying to find people who knew Colin Brimmer's mother, and today he told us he thinks Matthew Jarvis might have kidnapped him."
Omega frowned in the darkness. "Doctor Matthew Jarvis? The endocrinologist?"
"I guess so. He's a scientist, anyway, at the university.
"Did Tirrell give any reason for this suspicion?"
"Nothing that Hob—Hob Paxton—thought was any good. Jarvis's lab books show he wasn't working the days Tirrell says the kidnapper was in Ridge Harbor, and he's also out in the woods somewhere on vacation. Tirrell wanted to try and find him—some trick with his radiophone—but Hob told him the department wouldn't let him."
Omega was silent a moment. "Has Detective Paxton questioned you at all about why you asked him if you could be Tirrell's liaison?"
"No, sir. He swallowed the story about me wanting the chance to work with someone from the seaside. He's not too smart, sometimes."
Omega nodded, thinking hard. Could it be that Paxton had swallowed that line but that Tirrell hadn't? In that case this whole thing with Jarvis might be nothing but a decoy designed to lull him, Omega, into a false sense of security. But, no, that was too subtle even for Tirrell. And anyway, why drag a name as big as Jarvis's into it?—besides which, Omega's information indicated that the few police departments who'd even heard of the Heirs or Truth thought it was just another of the secret clubs that grew like weeds among preteens. No, Tirrell couldn't be gunning for him... and that made Weylin's story even more intriguing, because whatever else was said about Tirrell, no one had ever accused him of having bad instincts. If Tirrell thought Jarvis was involved, he probably was. Which led immediately to the question, Why? "Did Tirrell mention a motive Jarvis might have had?" he asked the righthand.
"Not to us, sir. I think he was mad at Hob for not letting him do the radiophone trick."
"You have done well to tell me this," Omega said. It was time to bring the confession to an end; he'd gotten about all he could out of Weylin for the moment and the preteen had to get back to his hive before lights-out. "Strive to bring peace between Hob and Tirrell, so that you can learn more about what Tirrell is doing. Remember that the man who has Colin, whether scientist or not, is evil; and those of us who serve the Truth must free the boy from his grasp."
A few minutes later he watched from the entrance to the tabernacle as Weylin rose swiftly into the night sky and disappeared among the stars. For a moment he lingered, his eyes picking out the constellations as he thought about this new twist. Was there, then, no fagin involved at all?—or was Jarvis simply acting as agent for someone else? That was a particularly intriguing thought, one that might make it worth reopening communications with some of his old friends. If someone had found a way to bribe, threaten, or blackmail leading citizens that effectively, the technique might be worth learning.
No. Better to wait a while, at least until Weylin could pump Tirrell for a little more information. After all, he had a good thing going here already, and it would be foolish to risk someone else's muscling in on him.
Smiling in the direction of the temple site, Omega glanced once more at the stars and went back inside.