Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chapter Seven: Discovered!

"God dammit, Dorian!" Archer's words were intense but quiet enough to be kept between two men. "She's not ready to hear what happened to her! Not yet ... it's a very tense situation. We mustn't shatter what fragile psyche this girl has left."

Staring intently at the wall and trying not to meet Archer's gaze, Dorian lowered his head slowly in resignation. His voice came softer, softer than he had meant it.

"I know, James, I know. But I don't know how else she'll believe us. She's getting so many conflicting messages in this place. From what you've told me, I'm not sure I even know exactly what's happened to her here."

"We've got to get her out of here, Dorian. She's as ready as she's going to be - physically, she's almost completely healed. But mentally, I don't know how much more of this she can handle in her current state. If only we could get her to somewhere safer - maybe Triss' place - but we'd have to get her past the barrier somehow, unless -"

"No, James. She can't ... I don't know what the hell to do! This has gotten out of hand! She can't stay here, but she can't leave, either. If she were out in the open, they might find out what happened to her after the incident. They can't find her, James."

"Alright, alright. I know how you feel about her, Dorian. Remember, it's me you're talking to. Before we go back in there, I wanted to tell you about something odd that has been going on." Archer seemed to become more nervous as he began to speak again - Dorian noted the change, but continued to look at his friend without flinching.

"Allyson mentioned something to one of the nurses about a man who visited her - told her about things - told her before we had the chance. She also claims that she has a newspaper, a copy of the Register. I believe her, though I don't know how she could have gotten her hands on one. Unless this man is real. So I've forbidden the nursing staff from looking under her bed, in order to not egg her on about it, and "advised" them to give her napkins to help with her "psychosis." That should hold them off until I can get to the bottom of this."

Dorian's look changed to one of puzzlement. As his thoughts began to wander on this newly-revealed tidbit of information, he suddenly remembered something ... someone.

"James, I know this going to sound crazy, but ... you don't think it could be ..."

His mouth began to form a word. A name.

Then his world began to shake.

Many floors below, a rumbling - almost an earthquake - began to rumble the entire building. Archer and Dorian were thrown to the walls of the hallway. They heard a shriek coming from Allyson's room. Regaining their footing, the two men shot glances to each other. The understanding between them was obvious from the terror on their faces.

"Shit! James, how?"

"I don't know, Dorian -" another shock wave sent Archer to his knees. "Oh my God, Allyson!"

As soon as the rumbling subsided, the two men rushed into the room. Allyson was sitting up in bed, cloaked in the shadows of her room. Flashes of light sprang forth from the exposed windows intermittently, blanketing the room like a slow, random strobe. The two men ran past Allyson's bed to the window and stared out into the deep night.

From below, on the east side of the hospital complex, mechanized hell stared back.

The two men could make out several dozen Vanguard soldiers creating a barrier near the hospital's entrance. In front of them, two small bodies were prone on the ground, dark puddles forming under their motionless limbs. Behind the soldiers were five Raider-class assault vehicles, developed for anti-terror and stand-off combat. Near each vehicle stood three more soldiers, their weapons held at the ready, aiming at the facility. In the horror of this scene, Archer almost missed the most terrifying spectacle of all.

"Dorian," his hands grasping faintly for any part of his friend that he could reach.

"I know, James, I see them. I -" his voice was cut off by Archer's finger pointing out the window. Then, Dorian saw it too.

"Holy ... fuck."

A Vindicator-class heavy-assault mech. Standing over eight-stories tall, and shaped like some crude, shining, metallic beast-of-war, the Vindicator was aiming its two photon particle cannons at the hospital, like a torturer sizing up a child. Flashes of atrocity raced through Archer's thoughts. In his mind, he could already hear the sounds of the patients burning, screaming for help, screaming for their families and loved ones, but finding only death in the rubble of the facility. He knew that they would never listen to reason. Somehow - God dammit - somehow they had found her. They had come for her. And if they couldn't have her, then no one would. Archer was becoming lost in his mind - his thoughts racing around, unrelenting, horrible. He thought he would go insane on the spot - but his trance was broken by the sound of a loudspeaker. A loud, female voice was careening through the air.

"Allyson Rhodes! This is your last chance. Surrender now, and these people will be spared. Know that death awaits this facility if you do not comply. Do you hear me, Allyson?!"

Dorian turned quickly to his friend, almost not hearing the message through - he already knew what was being said.

"James, come on! We've got to get her out!"

Archer looked back at his friend. He admired Dorian's inability to face the reality of a situation - sometimes. And this was one time that he wished he'd also had that trait. But all he could do was look.

"Dorian, we can't do this. All these people, they'll -"

"Gentlemen, if you would please. Clearly, standing here will not solve anything. And you're making our friend here nervous."

The two men whirled around towards the hospital bed. Allyson was sitting on the edge of the bed, her face in her hands, and two arms around her shoulders. Standing next to her was a tall, well-built man - he looked to be in his late twenties. The shadows initially cloaked him, but he stepped forward deliberately, tossing an object to the ground at Archer's feet. It was a copy of the Gladefall Register. Archer couldn't believe it. It was all true. She had it all this time. She knew more than he thought. And the man from the shadows, the one that had visited her. He was here, right here. Right now. He almost couldn't take his eyes off of the paper to look up, but Dorian's grip around his arm woke him back into the situation. Archer looked over at his friend, but Dorian's gaze was fixed on the man, and his mouth was open in shock. Archer swung his head around and met the gaze of the mysterious figure. In an instant, everything made sense. He couldn't believe his eyes, but his mouth could - he uttered only one word. A name.

"... Tyler?"

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