Thirty-two (part 1)

Whoever says that hope springs eternal was a bleeding liar.  Hope dies, just like everything else.

— attributed to Ryland LeSarte

19 Decem, 5249 PD

“Where’s Brendan?”

Lindsay forced her voice to stay steady, schooled her expression into a pale, cool mask of calm.  There were other people here besides just her and Rachel.  They didn’t need to see how upset she was, how shaken she was.  No one needed to see that.

His thoughts had gone blank just as she’d reached for him.  Once burned, twice shy.  The last time this had happened, he’d taken a knife to his implant on the return leg of the trip to rescue her parents.  Now, with the ground shivering above and around them, she was worried that it was something even worse this time.

He hasn’t even fully recovered from what he had to do to himself.  Now I can’t touch him and they’re bombing the city and if Brendan’s not with Uncle Adam…

“I sent him after Inspector Winston.”

Her heart sank.  Rachel took her hand, their fingers knitting together.  Her aunt squeezed her hand tightly and Lindsay swallowed hard.  “Where?”

“He was headed to the shore,” Adam said.

Rachel’s eyes narrowed.  “Give me the comm,” she mouthed at her niece.

Lindsay frowned, glancing at the others in the shelter before she handed it over.  Kara was here, so was Mugabe and an array of analysts and aides, half a dozen of them.  Kara raised a brow and Lindsay shook her head, lips thinning.

I don’t like this.  I don’t like any of this.

Brendan, where are you?  Please, please be okay. I can’t do this alone.

“Adam, spit out whatever’s sticking in your craw,” Rachel snapped as soon as the comm was in her hand.  “What the hell is going on up there and where’s Brendan?”

“We’re still trying to figure out who’s bombing us,” Adam fired back.  “Brendan was out trying to make sure that the Inspector and Freder made it to safety and we lost track of him when a bomb knocked out part of the power grid.  We haven’t been able to raise him on comms since.”

Lindsay’s stomach dropped and she pushed to her feet.  Rachel grabbed her wrist and held her firmly in place.

“Where?”

“Somewhere near the Forester’s vineyard.”

That’s all I need to know.  Lindsay tugged her arm free of her aunt’s grip.  “I can’t just sit here.”

“It’s not safe,” Rachel growled, glaring at her.  “You can’t go up there.”

“Watch me.”

Kara rolled to her feet.  “I’ll come with you.  You shouldn’t be up there alone.”

“You shouldn’t be up there at all!”  Adam barked, his voice tinny and small over the comm even though he was shouting.  “Stay put, we’ll find him.”

“Not fast enough, Uncle.”  Lindsay headed for the door.  “We’ll be careful.”

“Rachel, stop her.”

“I don’t think I can.”

Lindsay shot her aunt a tight smile and slipped through the heavy blast door, out of safety and into a world that was suddenly full of danger and death.

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