Chapter 28 (or, “Gone”)
Rhiannon drummed her fingers on the table. “Have we heard anything from Liana?”
“Not as of yet,” Jen said as he checked his communicator for the umpteenth time. “We sent her out to go get Henry and Sierra and bring them in. Haven’t heard back from any of them for at least the last half hour or so.”
“I still think they got bored,” Rifka said as she stared off into space. “Especially Henry. You can’t keep guys locked up like that for as long as we have. We were once in class, and Mick had to go take care of some forms and left us alone for fifteen minutes. When he got back, the entire chalkboard had been drawn on.”
“I remember that,” Jen said, a dreamy note to his words. “Half of it was American superheroes and half of it was ninjas.”
“We really gotta avoid putting those two in the same room together. They’ll destroy the world before we can save it.”
“Tamaniichan’s not going to destroy the world.”
“I wasn’t saying he would. I’m just saying he and Jason are such good friends that they could conquer whatever they wanted.” Rifka jumped as her communicator gave off an alert. “Speak of the devil in disguise. It’s Tama. Hang on, I’m gonna listen to this.”
“A vocal comm?” Jen asked as Rifka got up from her chair.
Rifka nodded. “Odna minuta, please.” She stepped to the side to listen to Tama’s message.
Rhiannon sat on her hands, looking over at the door. Komari was still guarding it, as any good assistant should. Liana had left a short while ago, so it was just her and these two strangers in the room. She had felt better when the others from her Tokyo had been with her, but now...now she just felt alone again.
She hated feeling alone.
“Rhiannon?” That would be Komari, right on schedule. One of the tasks Komari did every second of every day was to monitor Rhiannon’s heart rate and core temperature. If anything was even just a little bit out of sync, Komari would make notice of it, and Rhiannon would have to give a reason for her stats being off.
“Just concerned about the others,” Rhiannon said. That was mostly true. She leaned her head on her hands again and prayed that Liana would return with the other two. The last problem she needed on her hands was having everybody go missing.
“How many times do I have to tell you? I am fine. There is nothing to worry about. Sure, I’m a little concerned, but wouldn’t you be concerned in this situation?”
“Might I interrupt?”
Rhiannon turned and saw that someone was sticking their head into the conference room. She rose from the table as her heart lit, but no, it was just LaTasha. The wind farmer strode into the room without any attention to Komari, walking through the mostly empty room, past the long conference table and over to where Rhiannon was seated at the head. “I have some information that you might find interesting. I know that Henry and Sierra left town for a few minutes.”
“Left town?” Rhiannon almost threw something. She got up from the desk. “You mean they went outside the gate?”
“That they did, but only for a few minutes,” LaTasha noted. “They said not to tell you, but I noticed that Liana has not returned from looking for them, and thought it might be important to let you know.”
Rhiannon tried her best not to blow her top. She sat back down into her chair. Great. Now Henry, Sierra, and Liana were missing. “You let them talk you into that…”
“To be fair, they did say they would be right back, and I am letting you know right now that they are most definitely not back.” LaTasha turned to Jen, speaking now in Chinese. “Is there any way we can track their movements? You seem to have that information.”
“We could try tracking their navigators,” Jen said. “They have GPS coordinates.” He pulled out his communicator and started pressing buttons, now lost to his own little world. “Give me just a moment.”
Rhiannon stared off into space again. She hated it when people went missing. When people went missing, they didn’t come back. When people went missing, you had to find a way to get along without them, as if they had never been in that space in the first place. Even if you didn’t exist without them, if they weren’t here, that meant nothing. It only meant that it was your time to take your rightful place --
Rhiannon snapped out of her tirade. Rifka had come back to their corner, and she had a worried look on her face. “That wasn’t from Tama. That was from Isabel.”
Jen stopped punching numbers into his phone. “Isabel?”
“Yeah. Something about the villain cards that have been going around actually being monsters Dvorak’s been controlling. Have you heard anything about this, Jen-chan?”
Jen stood up. “Then we really need to find the others. If Dvorak’s sending out monsters that are also villain cards, then we’re done for if we can’t beat him. What did Isabel say the monsters were doing?”
“Said they were sending people to limbo. She said not to engage the monsters if we come across them, but instead to run away. We need to get everybody back together and see what cards we have.” Rifka bit her lip. “Dvorak’s worse than Dimitri, I swear.”
“For a time there, Dvorak was Dimitri.” Jen dialed a number, then put it to his ear. “I’m calling Jason.”
“Good idea.” Rifka turned to Rhiannon. “We should have everybody meet in Disasterville. It’s a central location that’s moderately easy for everybody to get to. Does that sound like a good idea?”
It confused Rhiannon. “Why are you asking me?”
“Because you’re the leader around here. You created this game, so you created the game mat by extension. Is this a good central place?”
Rhiannon didn’t even have to think about it. “That it is. If you’re looking for a meeting place for the entire mat, this would be it. It’s where the two separate maps meet. I mean, this world is much wider and vaster than the mat itself, but Disasterville is pretty accurate.”
“Confirmed, then. I’m going to send out a message to all of our operatives to get them here. I hope Isabel wasn’t considering that a suicide mission against that card.” Rifka quickly tapped on the screen and submitted a message out as Jen hung up the phone.
“Bad news. Jason’s phone’s not picking up.”
“Hm. Did you try Rosa? Maybe he went Colemak when he got Isabel’s message.”
“One moment.” Jen gave the line a quick ring. “Nothing. Can you try?”
Rifka nodded and, pulling out her communicator, accessed the phone function and dialed out. Rosa’s phone rang two times before the “out of service” message popped up. “Hm. Wonder why.”
That didn’t sound good. Rifka looked over Jen’s shoulder, analyzing his screen. An entire map of the Digital Merge world had popped up, the same map he had been using earlier. “What?”
“Jason and Rosa aren’t not showing up on the GPS at all. Neither is Isabel. Tama is, though. And, now that I notice, I don’t see Henry, Sierra, or Liana’s navigators anywhere.” Jen closed the application.
Rhiannon gripped the table. “Do you think...do you think the cards got them?”
“We can’t assume anything,” Rifka said, even though she knew the truth. If they weren’t showing up, then they were all probably in limbo. This was going to get really complicated really fast, and she wished Isabel hadn’t been such a hero. She wanted Tama here, the sooner, the better. “I’m gonna send a message to Tama. Tell him to get here as soon as possible. If Dvorak is really being as much of a pain as he can be, then we’re going to need all the help we can get.”
“Okay,” was the only word Rhiannon could force out of her mouth. But it didn’t even matter. She sat back down and stared at the table again. It wasn’t like she could really help with this situation. Who was she kidding? She was just a kid who had created a card game.
“Yeah, Komari, I know. I’m okay.”
“Your energy readings are showing that you are most certainly not okay.”
Rhiannon jumped and turned when Komari touched her shoulder, but it turned out to actually be Jen. “Moumantai,” he said, an expression Rhiannon hadn’t heard in years. “Everything is going to be okay. We’ll figure this out. We have to have faith in the system. And right now, we need to sit and hold tight until Tama gets here with Erika.”
Rhiannon had to force herself to believe him. “Okay.”