Zoe looked up, seeming neither surprised nor impressed to see Rachel behind me. Rachel couldn’t walk far, so I’d carried her pretty much the entire way. She still seemed a little unsteady on her feet.
“You brought a friend,” Zoe said, her tone strange, almost muted.
“I’m sorry,” I said, not sure how to justify myself to her. “I know you asked-“
“No, no,” she interrupted me, moving closer to Rachel. She sniffed the air, her expression curious and it seemed to me, worried. “This one is different.”
“Says you,” Rachel snapped.
“Mmm,” Zoe said, ignorning her. “You’re…” She suddenly shrank back, a look on her face that bordered on fright. “No, that’s impossible. No, not impossible. Improbable. How is not important. Where is she?”
“Gone,” Rachel replied, apparently able to follow Zoe’s erratic train of thought a lot better than I could. I was lost and confused.
Anger flashed across Zoe’s face, and she launched herself across the room with terrifying speed, slamming her hand into the wall beside Rachel’s head. Rachel didn’t even flinch.
“Where is she?” Zoe demanded, angry and desperate sounding.
“If I knew, I’d be talking to her, not you,” Rachel replied cooly. Zoe sneered, then pulled back, composing herself. A smile began to spread across her face.
“This place grows more interesting by the day,” she said, almost warmly.
“Can you do for me what she did?” Rachel asked, still unflinching.
“No,” Zoe said, shaking her head. “That was her role, not mine.”
“And what about Sabrina?” Rachel asked, looking at me. I turned my head away.
“I didn’t do that, and I can’t replicate it,” Zoe said.
The two of them stared at each other, a strange tension I didn’t understand spreading between them. They both struck me as people who enjoyed being the smartest ones in the room.
“So there’s nothing you can do for me?” Rachel asked, almost challenging her.
“I didn’t say that,” Zoe retorted, surprising me. “But why should I do anything?”
“Because I can help you,” Rachel countered easily.
“In your condition? I doubt that,” Zoe said derisively.
Rachel pulled out her tablet, tapping the screen determinedly. She flipped it over, showing Zoe a document full of photos and fragments of text.
“You’re building something,” she said. “You don’t have all the parts yet, but from what you have so far-“
“How do you know what I have so far?” Zoe interrupted.
“A lot of the items are very specific,” Rachel said. “People take note when they go missing. You’ve raided laboratories, hospitals, army depots…”
“Fine,” Zoe said, waving away the question. “And what is it you think I’m building?”
She seemed curious, intrigued by how much Rachel had managed to figure out already. Either that, or she was planning on killing her where she stood.
“No idea,” Rachel said.
“Then you’re wasting my time,” Zoe said, clearly disappointed.
“Fine. Find your own way home, then,” Rachel said. Zoe’s eyes flashed with irritation and surprise.
“You’re trying to rip a hole to travel to another dimension,” Rachel said easily, as if it were an ordinary, casual thing to say.
Zoe snarled, approaching Rachel again with a dangerous, almost animalistic aura about her.
“How much did my sister tell you?”
“Nothing,” Rachel said, still showing no signs of being intimidated. “I figured it out alone.”
“Maybe you can help me,” Zoe conceded, grinning a wicked grin.
“But can you help me?” Rachel asked.
“I believe I can,” Zoe said. “Sabrina, I’m going to need a few extra items.”
I stared at her, mouth agape. She expected me to just jump on board with this? All I’d agreed to was helping her get home, nothing else.
Before I could tell her exactly that, a familiar voice chimed in, a voice that neither of them reacted to. Envy was back.
“I think you should help,” she said, materialising in the reflection of a pane of brushed metal. “There’s something else going on here, something different about Rachel. Better to keep her close, and stay on her good side, at least until we know more.” She smiled generously at me. “Of course, that’s just my advice. You don’t have to do anything I tell you.”
She disappeared as quickly and spontaneously as she’d arrived, leaving me feel slightly dizzy. Zoe and Rachel showed no indication that they’d noticed anything at all.
We all have our secrets, I guess, I told myself.
“Just tell me what you need,” I said.