Authors: Brenda L. Harper
She began to probe the minds of the other men. She had heard them so easily when she first became aware of them, but now they were all blocked off, as though they knew she could do this. Walls, strong and tall. She ran her mental fingers over them, searching, searching even as Sam argued with their leader. And then something…
See how they like the dungeons…
No one was paying attention to Ellie. Not even Dylan. So she didn’t see when she climbed to her knees and crawled into the trees on the far side of the path. Dylan simply became aware of her thoughts as she continued to search for some clue to her own fate. Wyatt. She was thinking about Wyatt, of finding him. Dylan sent her thoughts to Ellie, tried to show her where Wyatt was hiding in the ravine at the far side of the line of brush.
If Ellie could get to him, maybe she and Sam had a chance.
And then Sam’s knees buckled as the Redcoat walked too close and swept his foot hard along Sam’s still damaged ankle. As though he knew exactly where his weakness lay.
Hands reached for her, tugging her roughly forward and tossing her to the ground, knocking her chin against the dirt so hard that she bit a corner of her tongue.
“Think you’re really something special,” the man said as he leaned down over Dylan and fastened something to her wrists, binding them together.
“What do you want?” she gritted out past her sore tongue.
“You,” he said simply.
He yanked her to her feet, pain shuddering through her from her injured shoulder. Another man had Sam, his hands also tied behind his back. Yet another gathered up the body of the Redcoat Sam had killed. But…Dylan looked at the man again and watched as the wound in his throat slowly mended itself. The man saw her watching and winked, an evil grin sliding slowly across his thin lips.
Who were these people?
They were marched down the path the same way Wyatt had advised them to go. After a couple hundred yards they could see a tall, dark wall rising out of the trees ahead of them. It was nothing like the dome in Genero, but a wall. To keep people out. Or maybe it was designed to keep them in. One of the Redcoats strode up to a door set low in the wall and knocked a specific rhythm. A second later, the door opened, and several more Redcoats stood in the open space, staring with obvious surprise at Dylan.
“You got her.”
“We got her,” the man holding Dylan said, shoving her forward just slightly, as though to emphasize the fact.
The men continued to stare as the man shoved Dylan through the door and into a long corridor that led to places she could not imagine. But the smell of rot filled her nostrils immediately, making her stomach twist over the little bit of meat she had eaten earlier. She excavated her stomach onto the floor, narrowly missing the toe of her boots. Laughter burst out from behind her, men who found misery humorous enjoying the sight of their captive struggling to wipe her mouth on the shoulder of her shirt, a shirt that was barely hanging onto her body after all the abuse it had taken in the past few days. For the first time she wished she had the heavy jacket that had become more of a cumbersome item than a helpful one.
The man behind her gave her a push, shoving her farther down the reeking corridor. “Walk,” he barked. “People are waiting to see you.”
Dylan glanced back, her gaze falling on Sam as he watched her, stumbling in front of his own captor as he, too, was shoved down the corridor. She gestured with her chin, showed him that she was not defeated and he shouldn’t be, either.
He winked, a gesture that almost made her smile.
They turned a corner and continued to walk, moving down a flight of stairs into a small room that was filled with iron boxes made of long, metal bars. The Redcoat pushed Dylan into one, closing the door with a clang and turning a long, thin stick that clicked it into place.
“Don’t they want her upstairs?” someone asked.
“In a while. They’re having some sort of party right now.”
Sam was shoved into the box beside Dylan’s. Then the Redcoats retreated, leaving only one man to stand guard at the front of the room. The man settled into a chair and didn’t even look at them once his friends were gone.
Dylan slid over to the wall shared with Sam’s box. “You okay?” she asked.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I tried.”
“I know.” She pressed her back to the bars, resting her sore shoulder against them to ease the pain that was beginning to color everything. “Ellie got away.”
“Do you think she can get to Wyatt and Stiles?”
“I don’t know.” She closed her eyes, but the pain made it impossible for her to do anything but be obsessed with it. “I hope so,” she whispered.
Sam sat with his back to the wall, too, sliding his fingers through the bars to touch hers. “She’ll find them.”
Footsteps sounded on the stones in the corridor. Dylan looked up and watched a tall, round man come into the room. The man spoke a few quiet words to the guard before approaching Dylan’s box. He stared at her for a few long minutes, his eyes taking in everything from her heavy boots to her torn shirt to the awkward position of her right shoulder.
“You’ve been hurt,” he said.
Dylan didn’t respond.
“They were supposed to be gentle with you,” he said. “I apologize. Crude creatures cannot always be trusted to do what they are told.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
He smiled, his eyes dropping from her for a moment. “The important question here,” he said, his eyes moving back to hers, “is: who are you?”
Dylan felt Sam’s fingers twitch in hers. She snagged one of his fingers between her index finger and thumb and squeezed, trying to tell him to stay quiet.
The man continued to watch Dylan, his eyes again moving over her as though looking for something, an outward sign of whatever he thought she was. “They made a mistake in Genero when they let you go.”
Dylan stiffed slightly. “You know where I’m from.”
“We know a great deal about you, my dear.” He gestured toward her. “If you’ll move over her, I can release those ties on your wrists.”
“Be careful, Dylan,” Sam said quietly.
“Oh, don’t worry,” the man said. “If I had meant her harm, I would have had the guards kill her instead of bringing her here.”
Something about his amused tone did little to reassure Sam. He maneuvered his fingers in an attempt to keep Dylan from pulling away. But her shoulder hurt so much, she was afraid she would never be able to do anything about it unless her wrists were free. So she pulled away from the wall, away from Sam, and rolled to her feet to approach the man at the door.
His smile was filled with something that made worms crawl in Dylan’s stomach, but she approached him just the same. She turned, backing up with her arms stretched out behind her. He chuckled as he pulled a knife from its small scabbard, a movement that made the metal of its blade sing over and again through the room. Dylan’s eyes rested on Sam’s as she waited.
She felt pressure on her wrists, and then they were free, their restraint falling to the ground. She cried out, her hand moving quickly to her shoulder as the sudden movement in her arm sent shivers of pain up and down her spine.
“Come closer and I’ll try to push your shoulder back in place.”
Dylan shook her head, moving deeper into the box, away from the strange man. “Cut his restraints,” she said, gesturing toward Sam.
The man shrugged, moving over to Sam’s box. Dylan nodded when Sam looked at her, holding up her freed wrists to show him it was safe. She watched as he did the same as she had done, backing up to the door of the box and holding out his wrists to the man’s knife. In a quick flash of sharp metal, Sam’s hands were freed. He came to the wall that adjourned her box and slipped his arms through, reaching his hands out for her. She took his wrists between her hands, rubbing away the marks left by his bindings.
“Touching,” the man said.
“What do you plan to do to us?” Sam asked without looking at the man, without acknowledging anything about him.
“You? Nothing. We’ll likely let you go when everything is said and done.”
The man made a sound that brought to mind a deep sense of satisfaction. Dylan glanced at him, not surprised to see a smile of delight dancing across his thin lips.
“We have a great number of plans for her,” he said. “That’s why we had Wyatt bring her here.”
It was as though he had dropped a great weight over Dylan. Her vision darkened for an instant, her shoulders sagged, even the one that was already dipped in injury. “Wyatt?” she asked quietly.
“He didn’t tell you? He’s been searching for you for several years, my love.”
Dylan let her hands fall from Sam’s wrists, tears forming slowly in her eyes. Sam moved his hand, reached for her face, but she moved out of his reach.
“Why?” Sam asked.
“Because,” the man said, his tone suggesting exasperation, as though they should have known the answer to this question already, “she is the one we have all been waiting for. She will be the destruction of the human race and the beginning of our new existence here on this forsaken planet.”
Dylan lay curled up on the dirty floor. She had tried to heal her shoulder, but she couldn’t concentrate enough to make…whatever it was that did it, work. All she could think about was Wyatt, but she couldn’t even concentrate on him enough to see him, to find him wherever he might be. The pain in her shoulder was part of the problem, she knew. It overwhelmed her thoughts, made it difficult to think of anything else.
That, and heartbreak.
“That man was lying,” Sam said for what Dylan imagined was the hundredth time, though not that much time had passed since their visitor had left them.
“How do you know?” she finally asked.
“Because he wants to make you think you can’t trust Wyatt. That you can’t trust any of us.”
“I don’t know.”
Sam was pacing in his box, his long legs moving so quickly over the confined space that he could only take two or three steps before he had to turn around and move in a different direction. She watched him, only vaguely aware of his movements. It reminded her, for a moment, of her fascination with watching Wyatt move the first few days they were together, of the unique way in which a man’s muscles moved and functioned. There were similarities between Sam and Wyatt. Sam was leaner, his muscles less defined, but there was that same hint of power just below the surface.
She wished that power could do something to save them now.
He came to the wall that their boxes shared and studied her, his green eyes so much like Donna’s that it only served to remind Dylan once again of all she had lost. He reached up and smoothed a lock of dirty brown hair off his forehead as he watched her, fear laced with concern etched in the fine lines along his graceful jaw, his low forehead.
“We’ll figure this out,” he said.
Dylan shook her head. “Genero sent us out of the dome to die. Wyatt set us up to be captured by these—” she thought of the Redcoat whose throat Sam had cut, a fatal wound that healed itself without any effort on the man’s part, and knew she had no word for what they were.
“We don’t know that Wyatt set us up.”
“He told you to take us down the same path the Redcoats took us down, the same path that led to the same door he told us to go through.”
Sam pressed his forehead lightly against the bars of the wall. “He did. But maybe he didn’t know they would be waiting there.”
Dylan shook her head. “This is his city.”
“Okay,” he said quietly. “So we forget about Wyatt and Stiles and Ellie, and we fight for ourselves.”
The sound lay flat and sad between them. The truth was, she knew, neither of them knew the answer.
She closed her eyes and tried to think of something soothing, of something that might ease the pain burning in her shoulder. Images flashed through her mind: her sisters at D dorm, Donna smiling after winning a game of chess in the commons room, Denise laughing at a joke someone else had told her, Davida whispering a secret in Dylan’s ear. Tension slowly began to leave Dylan as the images increased, coming faster. Mostly centered on Davida, on the compassion in her eyes each time she looked at Dylan or Donna.
And then it was just Davida, urgency in her tone as she touched Dylan’s shoulders and begged her to listen.
“We’re coming for you,” she said. “You must stay aware of everything around you. Danger lurks everywhere. Do not trust anyone.”
She disappeared as quickly as she had come, making Dylan sit up, gasping for breath.
“Dylan? What is it?” Sam asked, his voice as anxious and his tone as urgent as Davida’s had been.
Dylan shook her head even as the sounds of footsteps reverberated off the stone walls outside the boxes. She stood, slipping over to Sam, their hands reaching for one another as she stood facing the door to her box. Three Redcoats appeared in the entrance to the room. They paused, splitting apart to let two young women step forward. For a moment Dylan thought one of them was Davida. Dressed in a silky, white dress, she had her dark head down. Something about the way she held herself, the shape of her body, the curve of her shoulders, reminded Dylan of her beloved guardian. But then she looked up.
Caramel-colored eyes met Dylan’s. Caramel, not hazel.
“You’re to come with us,” the young woman said.
Dylan moved back, closer to Sam as his hands gripped hers tightly. “Where are you taking her?” Sam demanded.
“She will not be harmed,” the woman said, her voice unnaturally calm. The woman turned to one of the Redcoats and motioned for him to open the door to Dylan’s box. Sam’s hands tightened on Dylan’s that much more. She squeezed back, but then slowly pulled away.
“Don’t,” he whispered, his fingers reaching as far into her box as the tight bars would allow. “Don’t go with them.”
“I don’t think I have much choice,” Dylan said as she turned, trying to hide the fear that was tearing through her chest as she looked at him for what might be the last time.
Sam held his hands up for a long second before stepping back, dropping his hands to his sides as one of the Redcoats came into the box and grabbed Dylan roughly by the arm. Sam lifted his chin in the same gesture she had made to him soon after they were caught, showing her his own defiance. She returned the gesture before following the Redcoats and the mysterious women out of the room.