Carthage stood there in silence as the world continued to spin and run around him. Birds flew overhead, happy in their singing. The wind blew through his hair and past his still frame. The sun shined and the sky was blue and unclouded. Somewhere in all of that blue sky, a lone dragon trumpeted. A car alarm blared. A police siren wailed…or maybe it was an ambulance. He couldn’t tell the difference.
The Institute remained dead.
If I had been here when it happened, could I have done something to stop her? Anything? No matter which her it was. Could I have made a difference from being here? Just being here… Could I have saved Antioch’s life? Or Capernaum’s?
There’s no way to know.
It’s all guesswork and speculation and theories. No knowledge. No way to prove or disprove those theories.
Maybe I would have died too and all of our combined knowledge about the Elemental Project would have died with us.
Who knows for certain?
Maybe I was meant to survive.
His thoughts were disrupted by the sound of a car pulling up next to him. He glanced over at it.
The car and the man who came out of it were a matched set, like a pair of the most uninspired salt and pepper shakers. Nothing cute. Nothing fancy or sparkly. No distracting earrings. No tinsel and ribbons tied to the radio antenna. No surprising color or material choices.
Nothing but the dullest of plainness.
“Hello.” Carthage said.
The man nodded at him. “Are you Carthage?”
“I am. Who are you?”
“I’m Inspector Jerunge.”
Inspector Jerunge locked his car doors and walked over to Carthage. He took a moment to look out at the Institute’s ruins.
Carthage studied the other man’s expression but found nothing worthy of note. The man’s expression was as unremarkable as the rest of him. Is it incidental or intentional?
Before Carthage could dwell too deeply on that thought, Inspector Jerunge turned to face him. “By your leave, I’ll go out there and run my inspections.”
“Of course. That’s why you’re here.”
The inspector nodded. “When I am done with my inspections, I will come back and we will talk. I’m sure I will have plenty of questions.”
“Of course. I’ll stay here and wait for you.”
He nodded again. “I’ll return.”
The fairy cat had been unable to find any cars or any other machinery with satisfactory levels of power. She could have gone into the alive side of town, but that was always too risky. That side was too lively. People over there were too observant.
But there were very few cars in the dead side of town. The ones that were available were unsatisfactory. Very low power. Very unappetizing. So not worth her while.
So, she returned to Mark Caten’s Funorium on the odd chance that she could drain Carthage’s vehicle without him noticing.
She stopped short.
There was another car in the parking lot.
The fairy cat pulled her goggles over her eyes and did a quick check of the power levels. She licked her lips. The levels weren’t as high as they were with Carthage’s vehicle, but they were quite tasty and tempting.
They would make a very nice meal.
She transformed into her cat form and skulked over to Inspector Jerunge’s car.