Dr. Nicholas Ozark wasn't surprised to find his lab assistant Jennie waiting for him in the lab. He was surprised to find that she wasn't alone.
"Chloe, uh, Steele, isn't it?" he identified her.
The young woman brightened and said, "You remembered!" She had taken his Introduction to Physics class two years before.
"I don't see many history majors in my class, Chloe. And you finished with an A, too. It's a pity you didn't decide to pursue a career in science." Ozark turned to look at Jennie, his expression saying, What's she doing here?
"I ran into Chloe on my way here," Jennie explained. "She's trying to get back home to Chicago, but all the airlines have been shut down since the SFE. I was hoping you could do something to help."
"You mean like magically conjure up a private jet?"
"If you could, yes," said Jennie.
It was easy enough for Ozark to understand what was going on in his own mind. He could have tried to publicize the coming catastrophe and hope for the best, but instead he had chosen to keep quiet and let Jonathan Stonegal pull the strings from behind the scenes. He had spent the last hour watching the people of Stanford try to cope with the disaster, and guilt was pounding away at him like a sledgehammer. He had let a man have his bike, and he had done what he could to help a few other people on his way here from his apartment, but the guilt was still there, and he was pretty sure it would be riding his soul for the rest of his life. He would do what feeble things he could to make amends, and right now helping a former student make her way home across two thousand miles of chaos was one of them.
"All right," Ozark finally said, "a private jet it is. Jennie, Mr. Stonegal is arranging for me to be flown to New York. I need you to hold down the fort here. Chloe, I might be able to persuade the pilot to stop in Chicago, but I can't promise it. If you want to risk it, we need to be at the stadium by ten o'clock. Do you want to try?"
Chloe seemed a little disoriented by the speed events were moving in, but within a few seconds her face showed an expression of determination. "Yes. Even if you can't drop me off, at least New York is closer to home than California."
"All right," said Ozark. "We're going to have to reach the stadium on foot, and I don't have to tell you what things are like out there. We have to leave now if we're going to make it. Are you ready?"
If anything, Chloe looked even more determined. "Yes, Dr. Ozark."
A smile tugged at his lips. "As long as we're going to be traveling companions, Chloe, you can call me Nick."
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