“I don’t think she’s coming back,” Cael squinted into the shaft of light shining through doorway, “not anytime soon, at least.”
“Mm… a shame; and she was so charming.”
Cael looked up at Alberich, who was still frowning with his eyes closed. Even sitting, the man towered over him.
“Has it occurred to you that this blackout was caused by Lukas?”
The large man’s expression didn’t change.
“And if he didn’t, he’s sure to take advantage of it. You could try helping.”
“Really? And what would you like me to do?”
“We need to get out of these restraints for one.” Cael pulled at the straps cutting into his wrists.
“I’ll get right on that….” Alberich continued to slouch on his seat.
“You’re not going to…”
“My head is killing me from when you hit it with A BIKE; and I can’t feel my hands right now. So… no, I’m sorry but getting us out of trouble will be your job today.”
“Fair point,” Cael twisted his wrists and tried to lift a foot high enough to push at the straps. Unfortunately, his movement was restricted by the table and the large man sitting beside him. “Though, in my defense, I think your head hurts more from hitting the pavement after being knocked down than from being hit by the bike itself.”
Alberich let out a long sigh.
“I’m serious,” he wheezed as he tried to twist a shoulder under the table. “You obviously have a lot of strength; I’ve still got the bruises to prove it, but I don’t think you have a lot of discipline. Could have saved you from a lot of damage if you knew how to fall properly. As soon as we get out of here, I’ll show you a thing or two. You might even be able to fend Lukas off on your own when…”
“No, no training.”
“No training to fight. I don’t want to learn how to hurt anyone. I’ve hurt enough people as it is.”
Cael mumbled from under the table. “Have it your way,” and started gnawing at the straps on his wrists.
Ilya left the safety of light that pooled around the door and felt her way into the dark hallway. The voices calling out were quickly fading into echoes farther down the twisting halls. She wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. Probably not, but she felt relieved none the less. Her hand slid past the wall before her into open space. She tried to focus but could only see more darkness before her.
“You found me!” Ilya sensed something wrong. She couldn’t see any movement and his voice; it was like it was still coming from another room.
“I can’t see anything. Where are you?”
“Come in, come in, before someone catches you in the hall.”
Ilya reluctantly felt her way forward.
“Now, don’t freak out, but this may hurt a little bit.”
She heard the door slam shut behind her.
Ilya was blinded by a sudden rectangle of light popping on across the room.
“He Bhaga! What’s going on??”
“Sorry, just give your eyes a few minutes to adjust.”
There was definitely something odd about this man’s voice, and it wasn’t just the other room quality; it was too polite in its concern. There was no sense of angst or excitement over the situation. Ilya stood with her hands over her eyes, and forced herself to squint through her fingers. Her eyes watered instantly at the intense light.
“That’s it.” He said cheerfully.
“Where are you?”
“I’m right here.”
“I can’t see anything. That skrina is so bright.”
“Oh yes, that’s my fault, I’m afraid.”
“Come over. I can explain.”
Ilya closed one eye and somehow it made it easier to open the other one wider. She walked toward the shining rectangle of light. It was propped up sideways on a desk against the back wall with clipboards and open food wrappers scattered about. Her shin knocked into a swivel chair.
“Ooh! Look out there.”
She grabbed the chair as it attempted to roll away and plopped down in front of the skrina. The image swam in her vision and she grabbed the collar of her jacket to wipe away the tears. Keeping a hand over one eye, she leaned on the desk and stared at the skrina. What she saw was the head and shoulders of a young man who could have been Cael’s brother; except younger with a better complexion, and no dark circles under his eyes… and healthier weight which gave his face a rounder, more boyish shape. He had the same blue eyes, but the contrast of his dark shaggy hair made them pop more. Could Cael also have a brother? He smiled broadly in a way that was very unCael-like.
“Hello!” He chirped. Maybe not his brother, but definitely one of his people.
“Um… hello. What…w-what is going on?”
“Well, we WERE staging an escape.”
“How? Who are you?”
“I’m Mari’s friend! Sieffre, pleased to meet you.”
“You were the one she was talking to in her head?”
“Yes! Very good!”
“And, you did this? You made the lights go out and the doors open?”
“Yes, and you noticed the emergency lights are quite dim as well, yes? I thought it would help you sneak out unnoticed.”
“What about Cael? Is he alright?”
“Oh yes! He and his friend are in an interrogation room just down the hall. You should get moving.”
“How? Mari’s fainted.”
“Can’t you carry her?” Ilya’s eye widened in horror. “No, you’re right. You’re much too small.”
“Where are you?”
“Oh… I’m close, but I can’t help you.”
“Because I’m not… there. Go find your friends. One of them should be able to carry her.”
“I can’t just leave her there.”
“You’re only going down the hall, and you’ll be right back. Don’t worry, I’m watching over her.”
Sieffre pointed up. “I made sure to leave the cameras on. I can see where everyone is in the building, and I can show you the way out. Now you should go. They’re just down the hall.”
“Here,” Sieffre was replaced with a rudimentary map of the floor. A square glowed. “This is where you are now. You want to go down the hall, past the intersection, take the second right… here, and they’ll be on the third door to your left.
A series of muted pops erupted in the distant hallways followed by a chorus of shouting and more shots.
Sieffre’s face replaced the map again with a look of concern.
“You… should hurry.”