Penny stepped forward and extended her hand. When she spoke, her German accent was thicker than that of the Penny Neumann Ty had known on his home world.
“Miss Santos! I’m a huge fan. It’s really quite an honor to meet you.”
Maria stepped off the tram, and as she did, Penny seemed to think better of the offered hand, as if it would be beneath Maria or too presumptuous of Penny to assume that the woman shook hands. She pulled it back in and clutched the clipboard to her chest, knuckles turning white.
“I’m glad to be here,” Maria said, still sounding nervous.
Penny turned and escorted them into the building as several staff members unloaded their bags from the tram.
The power plant was clad in red brick with tall steel windows. The lines were sharp, and the proportions seemed exactly right to Ty, the massing striking without being over the top. Inside, the facility was reminiscent of old warehouses and industrial buildings that had been converted to condos. There were exposed brick walls everywhere, steel beams running vertically and horizontally, and lots of glass, including big windows and skylights above.
Penny gave them a short tour of the facility before leading them to the residential wing. Ty thought it felt like a boutique hotel, with comfortable but not lavish accommodations.
He and Kato were assigned to share a room. It had a door to the adjoining room, which Nora was assigned to.
Maria’s room was separate from the other two. It was on a corner of the building and far larger, with a sitting area, a half bath off the common area, and a bedroom suite with a king bed and a well-appointed full bath.
In the living room of Maria’s suite, Penny smiled and said, “Well, I’ll let you all get settled in. Just a reminder, rehearsal is in four hours.”
Ty could almost see the color draining from Maria’s face, but she held it together until Penny strode out and the door closed behind.
“Well,” Kato said, his voice abnormally formal and put-on, “I’m sure you want to get some rest, Miss Santos. Can we get you anything before we leave?”
Maria seemed to get his meaning—they’re likely listening to us. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
Back in the room he shared with Kato, Ty plopped down on one of the beds and pondered their current dilemma: they needed information. Specifically, they needed to know where the rocket control room was.
Penny. She was the key.
Ty had to go talk to her. He knew her—or he knew a version of her. He could use that. In much the same way as she had used him on his home world, he was now being forced to use her in this world.
Strangely, the situation gave him an insight into the Penny he had known on his world. For the first time, he felt like he understood the situation she must have been in. And finally, unexpectedly, he forgave her, fully and completely, and the most surprising thing was how good it made him feel.
Ty woke to a tug at his foot. He stirred, opening his eyes, realizing that he had drifted off to sleep on the bed, still wearing his clothes. It had been hard to sleep on the plane, and this brief nap in the hotel room had actually made Ty feel more tired.
Kato was looming over him. “What?” Ty croaked.
Kato stomped over to the window and motioned to the entrance of the power plant.
At the window, Ty immediately saw what had drawn Kato’s attention: his counterpart was exiting the tram. This world’s Kato wore a black uniform adorned with medals, rank insignia, and patches Ty didn’t recognize. His posture was rigid, his march faster than a walk, his piercing eyes straight ahead.
“I’m going to go stretch my legs,” Kato said.
He turned and exited without another word, leaving Ty to wonder if this world’s Kato would recognize his counterpart, even under the wig and makeup. Their operation was about to face its biggest test yet.