Home > Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2)(3)

Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2)(3)
Claudia Gray

“Not for that. It’s all right.” I lift my eyes to his and smile as gently as I can. “Trust me.”

At that Paul straightens, nods, and closes the distance between us. It would be so easy to hold him, for him to put his arms around me—

—but instead, when my hand brushes against his chest, I feel metal under the cloth. I reach beneath the collar of his robes and pull out his Firebird.

He still has it? I’d brought a second one with me, believing Conley would have stolen Paul’s. Maybe it’s broken. That would explain a lot.

Paul stares at the necklace he just discovered hanging against his chest. To him it must have seemed to appear by magic. Obviously he can’t imagine what I’m up to, but he remains silent, trusting me completely. That makes it a little harder to manipulate the Firebird controls into the combination for a reminder. Because reminders hurt.

Paul shouts in pain and jerks backward. But this is the part where my Paul wakes up inside him, when we’re together again and we can go back home.

Except that the reminder doesn’t work.

“Why did you do that?” Father Paul lifts the Firebird and frowns. “What manner of device hangs around my neck?”

He doesn’t know. He really has no idea. Nothing like this has ever happened before. How could a reminder just . . . not work?

I run one hand through my curly hair, thinking fast. “It’s my parents’ latest invention. It wasn’t supposed to hurt you—probably it’s broken. Here, let me have it.”

Paul hands it back, still trusting me, but now wary of the Firebird itself. I don’t blame him. If only I were another science geek instead of the artist in the family, because then maybe I could fix this on my own. As it is, I might have to go home without Paul. Even though I know I could come back for him, maybe in only a few minutes, I can’t bear the thought of losing him again.

You’re the scientific wonder of the twenty-first century! I think as I look down at the Firebird. How can you go dead on me now? Maybe Conley broke it. But why bother breaking the Firebird when he could have stolen it for his own use?

The Firebird hasn’t gone dead. It isn’t broken. Every control reads normal. Yet when I double-check, I see that the Firebird is showing a reading I’ve never seen before.

Another man steps into the room, and my eyes go wide.

“Allow me to interpret it for you,” he says with a smirk. “That’s what splintering looks like.”

His red robes look as if they belong in this strange medieval world, but his face is familiar. Too familiar.

Fate and mathematics don’t only bring you back to the people you love. They can also bring you to the people you hate.

In this world, they brought me back to Wyatt Conley.

2

WHO IS WYATT CONLEY, AND WHY IS HE SUCH A SON OF A bitch?

My parents explained the situation pretty well the day after I brought my father back home from our first adventure through the dimensions. That night we’d all been crying and happy and too freaked out to even think; then, once we woke up, we couldn’t stop talking about our adventures—everything we’d seen and done. Everyone we’d been.

That morning, it turned out, the physics faculty was holding a departmental meeting. Mom said that was as good a place to begin explaining as any, so my parents, Paul, Theo, and I headed to the university. As usual, I felt out of place as we walked through the hallways of the physics building. It’s like you can almost smell the math.

All of us went in together, interrupting the meeting in progress. All the science professors seated around the long oval table sat upright and stared.

“Forgive our lateness,” my mother said. Even in her faded cardigan and mom jeans, she was immediately the person in charge. Mom has this effect on people. “I need to raise an urgent issue not on the agenda, namely Triad Corporation’s role in funding research into the Firebird device.”

“As in, they shouldn’t have one anymore,” Theo chimed in. “We need to be independent from them, now.”

Dad stepped forward. “Triad has brought agents from another dimension into our own. These agents have been spying on us and attempting to direct and control our progress with the Firebirds. Their CEO, Wyatt Conley himself, is deeply involved in this—orchestrating it, even—in both worlds. To this end, he altered my daughter Marguerite’s dimensional resonance so that she can travel more effectively than anyone else in this world.”

Mom’s eyes flashed with anger as she cut in. “The procedure only works once in a dimension. By choosing our daughter, putting her in this dangerous position, Conley thought he could control us.”

“Conley also hoped to blackmail Marguerite into working for him, operating as his spy in countless dimensions. That’s why I was kidnapped into an alternate universe in the first place,” Dad said.

A silence followed. Everyone in the room just kept staring at us, this sea of huge eyes behind thick glasses. I wondered, Do they think my parents have finally lost their minds? The events Mom and Dad had just talked about sounded pretty fantastical, but every physicist in this department (and probably the world) knew that my parents were on the verge of a breakthrough—that dimensional travel was going to become a reality.

Then Theo held up his hands in the time-out signal. “Uh, we probably ought to back this up. Turns out the Firebirds work! Dimensional travel is possible! I guess technically Dr. Caine went first, then Paul, and then Marguerite—but the point is, we’ve tested the devices. The Firebird is a success. Yeah, we should’ve led with that.”

“Not that,” Paul said, expression grim.

I realized what he was getting at, and my eyes went wide. Uh-oh.

Paul stepped forward and said, as formally as if he were defending his dissertation, “We should have first informed you that Dr. Caine is alive.”

“Oh!” Dad said, as Mom put her hand to her mouth. “Right! Thought that was sort of obvious—but ought to have gone over it anyway. I’m not dead! Body not lost at sea or in the river, wherever it was supposed to be. I’d been kidnapped into another dimension instead. Left out that important detail, didn’t we?”

“Also, most of you will have heard that I killed Dr. Caine, when in fact I was framed for the crime. I am not guilty,” Paul continued. Then, with a glance at my dad, he finished, “Obviously.”

“Because I’m alive.” Dad clapped his hands together, amused and embarrassed at the same time. “Of course. No wonder you’re all startled, since to you it’s like I just rose from the grave! Can’t say I blame you. We ought to have phoned a few people when I got back last night, but we got a bit carried away there, with the reunion and all. But no, I’m not dead. I’m absolutely fine. Never better.” The professors in front of us remained still, and I realized several of them were pale with shock. My father broke the awkward silence. “So, how are all of you? Ah, Terry! Changed your hair, I see. Looking good.”

That was when someone fainted.

Believe it or not, that has to count as a positive reaction. For years, the scientific community wrote off my parents as lunatics; a lot of people would like to do that again. Their colleagues finally accepted that cross-dimensional travel might be possible—but spies from other worlds? Wyatt Conley, inventor and entrepreneur, the mastermind behind a mysterious plot? Triad makes the most advanced personal electronics in the world, and sells them in stores you can find in any shopping center. Their cheery ads and emerald-green signs don’t seem like they’d belong to the front company for a James Bond–esque supervillain. And what was Conley supposed to have done to me? “Changed” me? “Blackmailed” me? Why would a powerful billionaire ever need to blackmail an average eighteen-year-old girl?

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