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The plan from there became a bit on the complicated side. Well, no, that’s not true. It was actually pretty simple. Head down to City Hall in Manhattan and see if we can catch any politicians shape-shifting or disappearing through Fire Escapes. Though, really, it did get complicated because, we could easily be mistaken for these Conva folks. So, not only did we need to seem like we were just going about our day and going home when we were done, we also had to make sure no one was following us and use Fire Escapes that were adequately hidden.
“Hang on–what if we get stuck and can’t make it to a hidden Fire Escape without being seen or without being captured?” KJ asked at one point.
“Then escape some other way or get captured and we’ll come for you,” Jill said flatly.
“No, I mean, how do these Fire Escape portals get dropped in the first place?”
I spoke next. “Good question–I remember Uncle Julio telling me that the Fire Escape he’d used to get to my dayjob office was a temporary one. I assume he could make one.”
“He could have. Our stance through all of the development of the accessories is that we should avoid creating new Fire Escapes because of a couple reasons. F-f-f-first, if we start dropping portals everywhere, the Double-Oes, or Conva, they could easily track us via these new Fire Escapes. It m-m-made sense that to avoid suspicion, we would just travel by way of the existing network of portals and only drop new ones when we had a reasonable certainty that they wouldn’t be d-d-d-discovered.”
“Like your Fire Escapes at the apartment building in Washington Heights,” Kate said.
“Yes,” Jill nodded.
“Word, that’s good thinking,” Kate said.
“Yeah, but what if we absolutely needed to drop a new Fire Escape?” KJ asked, adding: “Wouldn’t it be easier to drop a temporary Fire Escape and use it, rather than not and getting captured and held in some Conva prison?”
“I’m all for avoiding that,” I said, causing everyone in the room to wince.
“Me, too,” Dot said. “I’m too old to be in an alien prison.”
She sounded like she’d had the experience before.
“Alright, I’ll enable it on our Accessory. But just one thing–if you ever come in c-c-contact with the other Accessory–“
“Wait–there’s another Accessory?” Kate asked, surprised.
“Yes–my job was to design a device that would allow humans to interface this network of portals. I didn’t realize that their eventual goal would be to produce multiple devices to use against the Double-Oes.”
“Wait–isn’t that a good thing?” KJ asked. “I mean, if they’re invading Earth, don’t we need to arm ourselves?”
Jill smiled softly and then looked KJ right in the eye. “You want to trust our government with a device like this?”
“Ahhhh, yeah, good point.”
“If the NSA knew about this thing, privacy on planet Earth would be all over,” Jill said.
“So, why did you make a second one, then?” KJ asked.
“I thought it was just for Julio to use for research and for surveillance. Luckily, since I built both of these to order and by hand, there were some bugs in the other one I hadn’t squashed before I d-d-d-decided to, uh, l-leave the project. This is what I was getting at before. If you ever c-c-come in contact with Julio’s Accessory, don’t use it. Don’t trust it.”
“Why? What’s the worst that could happen?” Kate asked.
“Not sure. It was glitchy. It would dump us out the wrong Fire Escape.”
“Oh, damn!” KJ said. “That’s terrifying.”
“Yeah,” Jill said. “So, there ya go.”
“But this other one, it won’t even work with our DNA, right?” Dot asked.
“No, the only Accessory with a DNA lock on it was this one.”
“Maybe you turn that off?” Dr. Green said, finally speaking up.
“Yeah, that’s not a bad idea.”