“Let’s not freak out,” Kitty told the gang. “Six and half minutes is no time to panic. She couldn’t get a call off, or the call couldn’t get through. No need to panic.”
“Or something went wrong in Wuhan,” said Madonna.
“You’re both rigt,” Margot said, walking into the middle of the room, rigt out of thin air. “Something did go wrong in Wuhan, and there’s no need to panic. Not for us, anyway. Not yet. But I could use a beer. Where’s Daisy? Oh, there she is. Daisy dear, can you bring me a Mr. Canoehead, please and thank you?”
Daisy shook her head, and rubbed her eyes. She’d seen Margot walk in, from out of nowhere, but couldn’t believe what she’d seen. She had no idea what to think, so she did what she was asked to do.
No one said a word as Margot took a long tug on her beer. Once again, Daisy lingered, very much wanting to know just what the Hell was going on. Once again Margot told her, “Sorry, Daisy, this is…”
“I know, I know… a family affair.” Reluctantly, Daisy turned, and walked away from the table.
“VoV was waiting for us, before we got to Wuhan. She told us the lab had just been evacuated. Red alert. We got close enough to look inside. Empty. Alarms still blaring. Robots scurrying around, scanning equipment, and taking samples, I assume.”
“Holy shit!” said Stephen. “That’s not good.”
“We went out to the hub, then back in again, to check the streets outside the lab. Robots on the ground, drones in the air, a small group of people in NBC suits huddled together.”
Madonna interrupted, “NBC?”
“Nuclear, biological, chemical. Hazmats, by another name,” Marc informed.
“But, not a block away, people were dancing. Looked to be young people. Casually dressed, wearing simple, cloth germ masks, dancing the night away. It was absolutely surreal.”
“Whaaat?” Lance said. “They were just dancing, as if nothing else was going on?”
“Yeah. As I say, absolutely surreal. And there was a boy. A teenager. He had a big, stuffed panda bear in his arms. Looked like he’d been late to meet his date, and found her dancing with another boy. Poor little thing.”
“And we came back. We went back out to the hub. I knew you’d be worried. It would take another half hour to get outside, for me to make a call, so I walked back into the tunnel, and came here, while Steve went out to the car.”
“Why didn’t Steve take the tunnel to the car?” Lance asked.
“Can’t,” Margot answered. “For some reason, you can’t exit the tunnel within… I don’t know, maybe five k of an entrance to the labyrinth. We tried, a couple times, way back when. You can bet close enough to see outside, but you can’t exit.”
“You have to call your brother,” Kitty reminded Margot.
“Rigt! Thank you, Kitty.” Margot pulled out her phone, plucked at the screen a few times, and announced, “It’s dead. Completely dead. I had a full charge before I left.”
“The tunnel is a phone killer?” Lance pondered out loud.
“Looks like it,” Margot replied. “There were no cell phones, the last time I went in. Steve’s boombox worked fine, the one time we brought it in. Our watches kept time. I don’t know.”
“Steve’s never mentioned it?” Kitty asked.
“He says he hasn’t been in there for more than twenty five years.”
“Why?” Kitty asked.
“Don’t know,” Margot answered. “We haven’t been tight since we split up. Last night was the first time I’ve even seen him in… more than twenty five years. Few people change drastically over their lives, so I knew I wasn’t gonna get an answer out of him, when I asked, and he clammed up, so I dropped it. But he didn’t hesitate, for a second, when I told him why we needed to use the tunnel. And he was more than happy to take me back in, so… I don’t know.”
“This could be important,” Kitty pointed out. Can you get it out of him?”
“I don’t know,” answered Margot.
“Is he coming here?” asked Kitty.
“I don’t know. I’ll call him. Ah, shit,” Margot cussed, dropping her phone on the table. Eric handed her his. She called her brother, first, telling him she was back, assuring him she was fine, and promising to fill him in later. She plucked Steve’s number in and, “No. Of course not. His phone must be dead, too.”
“In Riff n Raff, Basher and Taffy are in the hub, when Taffy finally manages to contact Sandman,” said Kitty. “Maybe there are other spirits in the labyrinth. In the hub. Maybe they’re not all from the light. Maybe that’s what Steve’s not talking about.”
“Maybe,” agreed Margot. “Maybe.”
“What about VoV?” Kitty asked.
Margot repeated Kitty’s question, “What about VoV?”
“She told you the lab had been evacuated. Nothing else?”
“VoV’s not a big talker. She told us, then disappeared. But we both felt her presence with us, the whole time. So, I’m not the person to answer the question.” Margot turned to Stephen, and repeated Kitty’s question, “What about VoV, Stephen?”