I hadn’t even been mulling over Alma’s statement a minute when Eliza came back in. She was paler than usual and she sat down heavily. “What happened?” I asked.
“It’s fallen,” Eliza said.
“Really?” I asked. “I mean, I know Hawaii probably wasn’t prepared, but…”
“No, not Hawaii,” Eliza said, “The UK.” We shut up, me mostly because I was stunned. “Though Hawaii probably’s going down soon.”
“What do you mean, ‘England’s fallen?’” I asked. “England doesn’t just fall. They aren’t fucking Denmark.”
“I bloody know, mate,” Eliza said. “But they’ve got our silos, Buckingham’s in their control, and pretty much every major city and military base from Edinburgh to London’s got a nice ol’ infestation of Drake.”
“But…” I said, “but how? Yesterday they were on the other side of the channel!”
“Probably has something to do with their gateways,” Eliza said. “But yeah, that was record time for them. From what we can gather, they put a huge amount into this one. Seemed to be a higher ratio of Dragon’s Teeth to defenders than normal. And they were a lot less concerned with civilian casualties.”
“Jesus…” I said. “What the hell?”
“I know,” Eliza said. “D’you think they’re gonna stop there?”
“No,” I said. “I wish I could say they would, but I’d be willing to bet I’m going to figure out first-hand what you’re experiencing soon.”
“Oh, by the way,” I said, “I lost my phone.”
Eliza groaned. “Jesus Christ, now those bastards have a direct line on everyone in your contacts.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Can I borrow your phone to give them a heads up?”
“Better do that,” Eliza said.
As I was texting everyone possibly affected, I said, “By the way, you remember Alma Hebert?”
“My creepy first year roommate?” Eliza asked. “Yeah, definitely.” She shivered theatrically. “You know she hung around with Ulfric? Saw ‘em together multiple times. Guess they were off in the same ways.”
“She’s the Death Goddess,” I said.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell,” Eliza said.
“And I think that Ulfric might be Dragon’s Teeth, now that I think about it,” I said. “I actually saw a few guys that looked a hell of a lot like him.”
“I refer you to my previous statement,” Eliza said. Then she groaned. “Gah, how the fuck didn’t anyone realize this?”
“I get the feeling that there wasn’t much coordination between the guys who made the Dragon’s Teeth,” I said. “The Jason Project, that’s what they’re called…”
“‘Course they are,” Eliza said,
“…Couldn’t really be in regular contact with the President at the beginning, plus there was plausible deniability and then they went rogue.”
Eliza laughed. “Fuckin’ typical, innit? Goddamn conga line of betrayal. The President hires some people to make monsters to take over the world for ‘im, they make the monsters and decide they don’t need to follow orders. Then the monsters start tryin’ to revolt.” She paused. “‘Ow’d you figure out that Alma was…?”
“She contacted me with her psychic powers,” I said.
Eliza groaned something about “not signing up for this” and threw her head back in exasperation.
“My life,” I said, “is just so incredibly strange right now.”
“Warn the people your weirdness might rub off on, weird boy,” Eliza said.
“Getting on it right now,” I said.
John Marshall was the first person I called. He had been my fellow UNIX infiltrator (well, one of four, but he had been the one I had made contact with in Hell Semester) and we had been close for a while. The problem was that John wanted out, and I may or may not be an addict. When he went to North Korea, he had ended up getting shot in a firefight with South Korean police. Then there was Japan, and John had decided he was out.
After listening to my explanation, he said, voice dangerous, “So, basically, because of you, I might have been doxed by the Dragon’s Teeth?”
“Potentially,” I said. “In my defense, this was not my fault.”
“You had my number in your phone,” John said, “despite the fact that you knew people could hack it. But yeah, completely not your fault.” He then hung up. You can’t really slam a cPhone, but if he could, he would have.
“Well fuck you too,” I said. Then I called Eric. Eric, Ray-Gun, the Monk, MC Disaster, and Doc were some former African child soldiers I’d met in Hell Semester. My knowledge of their days back home was sketchy. For instance, I wasn’t entirely sure which country they were even from. I did, however, know that they’d done something to piss off a local warlord.
“Thank you my friend,” Eric said after I had filled him in. “I will tell the rest of my crew.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll call Cross next.” Croccifixio “Cross” Castellan was another buddy from Hell Semester. He was from New York and was the son of some sort of mobster.
“Excuse me a moment,” Eric said, then yelled away from the phone, “Cross! Stop fucking Doc in the ass for a few minutes! Nathan needs to tell you something!” Turning back to me, he said, “He got back here a few hours after we cleaned up from the Dragon’s Teeth attack. Whenever he and Doc want to have sex, they kick everyone else out.”
From inside the room, I heard Cross yell, “Fuck you! We weren’t doing anything!”
“I will refrain from your kind offer for the moment,” Eric said.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt whatever it is you’re doing there…” I began, but I heard the door open and Eric hand off the phone to Cross. “Hey Cross,” I said.
“‘Sup?” Cross asked.
“So I lost my cPhone and it had your cPhone number on it,” I said, “Plus a Deet got a good look at it. Now it’s sitting in the FBI Honolulu office, waiting for invading Dragon’s Teeth to find it.”
“How the fuck did… never mind, I don’t want to know,” Cross said. “Those assholes just show up everywhere. That’s why my dad sent me to school. We’ve been hearing shit in New York for months now.”
“Really?” I asked. “How come I haven’t heard anything?”
“Look,” Cross said, “I don’t mean to diss newspapers, but they don’t spend hours talking to bums and crackheads unless they have some bullshit ‘human interest story.’ They don’t poke around abandoned buildings and bumfuck-nowhere wilderness looking for stories. People I know? They’re interacting with those people and going to those places every fucking day.”
“And what are they noticing?” I asked.
“Activity.” Cross said. “One guy of ours was burying a corpse in his favorite spot. Then he struck this hunk of prime rib. Few feet beneath that? Fucking junkie with a hole through her heart that looked burned around the edges. That’s how it started.”
“Yeah,” I said, “those injuries sound like something only Dragon’s Teeth can make.”
“Basically, they’re setting something up,” Cross said, “and the junkies and bums are accidentally stumbling on it ‘cause they’re looking for places to sleep for the night or get high. We’re hesitant to tell the cops ‘cause, y’know…”
“Why were you digging a hole there?” I finished. “Why were you talking to that guy?”
“Exactly,” Cross said. “We don’t want to tell the police because that’s gonna fuck things up. Even if leaving things as-is will fuck things up worse.”
“What about the super heroes?” I asked. “I mean, isn’t this the kind of stuff that-”
“Nate,” Cross said, “here’s a tip: capes don’t give a fucking shit. Maybe some of the noobs do, but most of these ‘heroes’ are just in it for the fame and… and the fucking, I dunno, Sprite deals. You should know. You live in Boston.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“Vast majority of those guys,” Cross said, “fix their fights. Your girl Jen was probably the last to fix hers.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I dunno,” Cross said. “Probably because she needed the cash like all the rest.”
“No,” I said, “why didn’t she think of it first?”
“Jen’s weird,” Cross said. “Smart, good at business, but weird.”
“Speaking of Jen,” I said, “I actually need to call her about this.”
“Yeah,” Cross said, “You definitely should start in on that.”
As soon as I hung up, I had an idea. “Hey, Eliza,” I said. “You know how I don’t know that much about lawyers?”
“Yeah?” she asked, her eyebrow raising suspiciously.
“I think I know who does.”
“Fucking Christ,” Eliza said. “It’s Jen, isn’t it?”
“Do you trust Hicks not to arrest us as soon as we touch down in LA?” I asked. “I mean, I like the guy, but he’s a cop.”
“Fuck no,” Eliza said. She sighed. “Call her, I guess.”