tilly with the others: part 37

The GO bus pulled into the Union station depot about an hour after it left the Brampton Four Corners stop. The passengers disembarked, mostly teenagers heading to Queen Street West and senior citizens planning to catch a musical on King Street.

The only passenger not very young or very old — by looks, anyhow — was a woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties. She was wearing a classically-cut brown leather jacket over a cream sweater and dark-coloured jeans. Her hair was long but not in any noticeable style. She could have fit in amongst the downtown passers-by in any era from the late sixties to now.

The woman walked with the rapid gait of a native Torontonian. She made her way to the train station building, moving confidently but glancing to side to side as if looking for someone. Once in the lower level, she paced the GO ticket booths, the shopping concourse, and the gates to the subway and streetcar platforms before heading upstairs to the cavernous rail station. She circled the information booth with its giant brass clock, still looking and still not seeming to recognise anyone. She frowned and headed to the area that was added on in the 1950s.

"Over here," a voice called, and the woman's face brightened. She increased her pace and greeted a man sitting in the waiting area near the candy stand. He rose to meet her, but sat down again when she gestured at him and sat on the bench beside him.

The man looked like he had time warped in from when the addition was built. He wore a dark grey boiler suit with a white shirt and black bow tie. He clutched a dark grey visored cap in his hands.

"The subject's secured, at least for the next few hours," said the woman. "Status?"

The man shook his head. "According to the sensors, he's still in there," he said. "But it's been over two hours."

"Is he moving?"

"It's too small a space to tell. Even if he is moving, he couldn't move enough for it to show up on the sensors."

"All right," said the woman, standing up. "Did you get subway tokens?"

"Yes," said the man, rising. "But surely you don't mean we're just going to go there."

"Follow me." The woman headed towards one of the stairwells that led to the subway concourse. "If it's a small room, and if — " she made a sound like a metal zipper being pulled up quickly " — is in there with them, there can't be more than five bodies total. The hostiles have evolved to think that filling as much possible arena space is a benefit, because it means their enemies can't get in to get them. They don't take into account that 'space' can be measured more than one way, and they certainly don't think they're going to need room to fight."

"But there's more of them in the subject's building — "

"They won't abandon their posts, not if it means being exposed in the no-man's land between the apartment building and the subway station."

They reached the turnstiles leading to the subway platform. The woman dropped her token into the slot on the turnstile and strode through. The man hesitated, token held over the slot. Someone behind him said something rude. The man put the token in the slot and passed through, running a little to catch up with the woman, who was already stepping on the down escalator.

"What's the big deal if they are here? It's not a proper invasion force. There'd be a lot more of them?"

The woman half-turned on the escalator steps and glared at him. The scents of sulphur and roses wafted around them.

"I want this research project done," she said. "I want to have my reports filed and be home in time to see my children spawn. And if we have to invoke the Ninth Protocol to have that happen, so be it. We're already going to have to take interference into account in our results."

The man stared down at his shiny black shoes and said nothing until they were on the subway and halfway to Spadina station.

"What if things have gone very badly?" he said.

The woman shrugged. "The subway's running, and they're not announcing anything about the stop," she said. "It can't be that bad."