Thursday, March 1, 2007

Chapter Nine: Shadow Stepper

The man in the shadows was back. But this time, he was running about ten feet ahead of Allyson, and still hidden by darkness. Allyson herself was riding in a wheelchair being pushed by Archer, with Dorian running alongside them.

"This way, hurry!" The shadowed man was leading them down this alley way and that, trying to escape the Vanguard as the hospital now lay in ruin. The man in the shadows, Allyson had learned his name was Tyler from Archer and Dorian, brought to light that the hospital was going to be destroyed regardless of whether the Vanguard captured Allyson. Now way would they let the building remain a refuge for enemies of the state.

Tyler stopped for just a second as the others caught, but then quickly picked up again, leading the escape. In that moment, Allyson saw his face, and something else.

"That scar," she thought. Indeed, Tyler had a gruesome, but clearly old, scar across his face that traveled from over his left eye to his cheeck and upper lip, ending to the right of his strong chin. For some reason, there was a fleeting moment of recognition in Allyson's memory. She had touched that scar the last time she saw it. It was much newer then.

She barely knew who the man was, but a single moment in time had come back to her. She could recall the remorse she felt when she discovered he had suffered the injury. Remorse, though? Had she given him the scar?

"Come with me, please! They cannot see where we are going," Tyler hastened them. Archer was getting tired, pushing Allyson's wheelchair, but her legs weren't strong enough yet for a full sprint through a city.

"Let me, James, I'll push he the rest of the way," Dorian said, once again eager to come to her aid.

Suddenly, Tyler had stopped in front of them. Lights could be seen ahead of the four in the distance. Tyler had to react quickly.

"This way," he said. Leading them through a door to what appeared to be a closed down shop. Plywood covered all but one window. The original door remained on its hinges, rotting. The climbed over rubble and dust-covered furniture through the shop to the back entrance of the building."

"Allyson, my dear, you'll have to part with you chair," Tyler said as softly as he could.

Without responding she stood, uneasy at first, but gradually more sturdy. She did not know where she kept finding this inner resolve. He led them to a bulkhead in the back of the building, obviously to the basement underneath the shop. The crept swiftly down the stairs and into the basement. In the darkness, Tyler found another door and they went through it onto a metal, spiral staircase.

When Tyler reached the bottom, he splashed into ankle-deep water. They were in the sewers.

"Where are we going?" Allyson asked.


Allyson was puzzled, but Archer and Dorian followed without question. They must know where he's going. Or at least have an idea. They walked for what seemed like hours. It was probably more like 20 minutes.

Finally, Tyler found the door on the right side of the tunnel that he was looking for. He knocked three times, then four. The door opened and he stepped through. The door closed behind him.

They remaining three stood there and waited. Allyson was confused, but once again her escorts were calm. A few minutes later Tyler returned and waved them in.

The passed through the door and past a man stading to the side with a rifle. The traveled down a rounding ramp to another level of the sewer system, this one a little dryer. It was warm and musty; Allyson wiped the sweat from her forehead.

"Allyson, I'd like to re-introduce you to Sandra and Anderson. We're all very happy to have you back after so long," Tyler said, with explanation.

Once again, clouded recognition filled Allyson's mind. She had know idea what was going on or who these people were. But... she knew, somehow, she was in the right place.

Tyler, Allyson, Sandra, and Anderson. Allyson was unaware at the time, but it was the first time in more than a year that it was safe enough for the four of them to be in the same place again.

The Returners had arrived once more.

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