Sunday, March 4, 2007

Chapter Ten: The Reunion

"Oh my God, Allyson!"

The sentiment echoed on the lips of those present in the meeting hall. Acting first, Sandra rushed forward and wrapped her arms around Allyson's frail-looking figure, almost knocking her down in the excitement.

"Whoa, Sandra!" Dorian exclaimed. "Hold up, she's still not well, she's -" Tyler's hand found Dorian's arm softly.

"Easy Dorian. You know how they feel, don't you? Don't take this away from them."

"But..." Dorian started. Then he realized - like it always seemed - Tyler was right. He knew exactly how Sandra and the others were feeling. He had felt that surge of quiet excitement fill his lungs when he heard Archer confirm that Allyson was still alive. It was like taking his very first breath all over again. And, seeing her now, seeing Allyson standing there again - the feeling had not left him yet.

Sandra released her grip on Allyson cautiously, not realizing the state of affairs. "Sorry Allyson, I didn't know how things were. I was just so excited to see you again. I ... we all thought you were ..."

"Dead?" Allyson said the word with curious apprehension.

Sandra looked into her friend's eyes, surprised at how fast Allyson had finished her sentence.

"Well ... I mean, you're not - so everything's alright now. Right?" Sandra looked around her - she didn't know how to act, not right now. No one else did either.

"Calm down, Sandra," Archer motioned his words with his hands, trying to bring her down out of her fear.

"Archer's right - we all need to calm down," Tyler stepped into the conversation for the first time proper. "Allyson's back, but she's not completely well yet. The Vanguard sacked The Inn in Montgomery and we had to get her out. This is the only place where she can stay for now. The only place that they won't find her."

Tyler moved over to stand behind Allyson, and leaned in to speak quietly to her.

"You should get some rest - we might need you healthy faster than expected."

Allyson nodded slowly in acknowledgment - as Tyler's words entered her ears, she felt her body's weakness for the first time since they had arrived at the hideout. But his voice gave her strength - a feeling she hadn't felt in so long. It was like a lifetime ago...

"Dorian, please escort Allyson to her room -" Tyler leaned back to speak to Allyson one more time.

"- Everything's just like you left it. Maybe more of your reality will reveal itself to you when you see it again."

"Tyler," Archer said, "maybe I should take Allyson. I am her doctor, and I was able to procure some medication as we made our way out -"

"No Archer." Tyler was firm. "No medication tonight. Tonight, Allyson will have no trouble falling asleep. Not here. Dorian, go ahead."

Archer gave both of them a look that was selfish and defeated. Tyler looked away from him in disgust - he realized that this was not the time for personal feelings to get involved. He immediately regretted his actions, but knew that the others wouldn't understand. Especially Dorian. So much had happened between them - and Allyson. How could it be alright, anymore? he asked himself as he looked away from his friend. Dorian took Allyson's left arm gently in his hands. As he wrapped his fingers around her sleeve, he felt so many memories taking over - he forced them out of his mind, for now.

"This way, Allyson." He led her slowly out of the south exit of the meeting hall, leaving the others standing in silence.


Anderson watched the whole scene unfold from the east wall. Throughout the reunion, he had been silent. This had been mainly due to the disbelief of seeing Allyson again. However, it also had to do with the Inn. He hadn't said anything to Tyler or Archer yet - he hadn't asked them about Deiana. He wasn't even sure he wanted to. Irony shook him when he found himself speaking out into the dead silence of the meeting hall.

"Was it Deiana?"

He wasn't looking at anyone in particular, but the whole room swiveled to meet the gaze of his words.

Archer answered after a short pause.

"...Yeah. Yeah, it was. I'm sorry, man."

"No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry about the Inn. I can't understand why she would do all of that - all of those people ... dead."

Archer began to move nearer to Anderson as he spoke. "Anderson, we don't know her anymore. She's not the person that we thought she was. She's one of them now. She's -"

"Damnit Archer! - I know that! I know what she is ..." Anderson could feel himself falling apart - he tried to stop it but couldn't. "But ... I know who she was, and I can't forget that."

"Well," Tyler said, stepping forward as well, and moving out into the light of the hall for the first time, "you've got to forget. We all have to. What Deiana did is over now. She's gone. Allyson is back, and we that's all that matters." Tyler began to pace around the center of the meeting hall - he felt as though the situation was beginning to get out of control. He needed to institute some kind of order - get things figured out. "The Inn is gone. The Returners have lost a great deal from this - people, resources, facilities. But we have Allyson back - and we have to move on. There's still so much to do - so much is still in the works. Earlier today, I received a correspondence from Triss. The Vanguard attacked Edenmore earlier this week, and plans have changed. The operation has had to move to a more secure location. I've been assured that when we are able, we will be able to rendezvous with Triss and her people and carryout our plans. But we have to remember, Allyson isn't all of herself, yet. She still has a lot to figure out. And we have to help her as best we can. But we can't do it all. She's got to do this on her own."

Tyler's pacing had left him at the head of the long, rectangular operations table. He leaned down his hands onto the cool metal surface and looked out amongst his people. He saw a lot of confused, scared - but determined faces in front of him. People he had known all of his life. Friends he had gained to help replace the gaps left by the ones he had lost. The time was coming near - the plans were in motion. The time for action had arrived. And they would be counting on him to make the decisions. The right decisions. The life decisions. But he couldn't do it alone, and everyone knew that. He looked out and knew that the time to act had come.

"We need to be prepared for what lies ahead. I'm calling a meeting: here, sunrise. Everyone, be on time - we need to be ready. The time is drawing near. We're adjourned for now - Deacon, take the watch. Everyone else, get some sleep. "

In response to his words, and in unison, the room spoke out the solemn reminder of their mission:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

As the words left his mouth - it was a reflex at this point - Tyler could see them all clearly. The roomful of nods and smiles gave him strength. He knew that they were all behind him. And, now Allyson was back. He felt like things could start getting better now.

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