Hell rained down on them,

A rain of fire, a rain of tears,

And o’er all who lived there

Spread the desolation of murdered dreams.

— Olarius Kemp, On the Death of Karenis Prime,c. 2013

19 Decem, 5249 PD

Her head throbbed dully as she stirred awake in an unfamiliar bed–not the one she’d been sharing with Ezra, not the bed that she’d slept in alone for so many years, but somewhere else, somewhere unknown.  The blankets smelled like her lover, though, and she shifted slightly, pushing them back and away.  A hiss of pain escaped her lips as the tattered, wasted muscles of her arm spasmed, the ache bone-deep abruptly returning.  She remembered taking something for the pain and something to help her sleep and falling asleep in their bed.  Now she blinked blearily at her surroundings and found them unfamiliar.

Where the hell am I?  Where’s Ezra?  Alana rubbed sleep from her eyes as she sat up fully, the blankets falling away.  “Ezra?  Are you here?”

No one answered.  She swung her legs over the side of the bed–barely more than a cot, though a little more comfortable than a ship’s bunk or a soldier’s billet back in Compact space–and stood slowly, testing her legs.  She felt a little shakier than she’d have liked, but straightened easily and looked around.  “Ezra?”

No answer.

She exhaled through her teeth.  It was a small room, non-descript with silver-gray walls and a few cots. Some kind of shelter, maybe?  Shelter from what?

Her arm hurt from shoulder to fingertips as she hugged it against her belly, cradled in her good arm.  The sling she’d been wearing was nowhere to be found and she muttered a quiet curse under her breath.

What the hell is going on?

She could hear rumbles in the distance, the ceiling shivering slightly.  Bile rose in her throat and she swallowed it back down.  That’s not a good sound.

“Where the hell is my comm,” she muttered to herself, already starting to poke around.  The place didn’t looked lived in at all, despite how neatly appointed all of it was.  It felt sterile.  Utilitarian.

Alana swore aloud.  It’s a bomb shelter, a raid shelter.  What the hell is going on up there?  She coughed and cleared her throat.  “Ezra Mason Grace, where the hell are you?”

The next bang she heard was much more immediate, followed by the sound of Ezra’s voice swearing heartily.  The door at the far end of the narrow room swung open and Ezra appeared, lugging a crate of something along with him.

“What are you doing up?”

“Never mind what I’m doing up.  Where the hell are we and what the hell is going on outside?”

“Shelter under the clinic,” Ezra answered promptly, giving the crate a final shove.  “The sirens went off and I got you moved down here.  You were out like a bloody light.”

“I’ve been drugged up to my eyebrows since you started working on my arm,” Alana muttered.  “Not that I’m not grateful for it because it hurts like a bitch if I’m not.  Why did the sirens go off?  What’s going on?”

He hesitated and she swore, heading for the door.  His hand instinctively shot out, grasping her shoulder to stop her.

Alana howled as white-hot pain lanced through her arm, dropping to a knee.  Ezra’s hand snapped open.

“Shit, ‘lana, I’m sorry.”  He scrabbled through an open medical kit set on a side table and pulled out an injector full of a pale blue liquid.  She tried to push him away but found that the pain had consumed what little energy she’d had.  A second later, he’d pressed the injector against her neck and released the drug into her system.  Another few seconds after that and it had started to take effect, the pain ebbing.

She looked up at him with eyes hazed by tears, tears she hated.  There were some things that you didn’t get used to shedding after you served the Compact and tears were one of those things.  “You should be sorry,” she whispered, her voice hoarse.  “Dammit, Ezra!  Just tell me what’s going on.”

“We’re under attack,” Ezra said quietly.  “The raid sirens went off.  It was all I could do to get you down here.  It was still early when they went off, not much of anyone out and about yet.  I don’t know what it looks like above right now and I don’t know that I want to find out.”

“I need my comm,” Alana said, struggling to her feet.  “And my sling.  Where are they?”

“Probably upstairs to the first and definitely upstairs to the second.”  Ezra helped her stand, wrapping an arm around her waist and steadying her as she swayed.  “Get back in bed.”

“There are people dying up there.”  Probably dying.  Maybe dying.

Ezra winced.  “I have to hope that most folks made it to shelter and are okay,” he said quietly, his voice little more than a hoarse whisper.  “There’s nothing I can do about that right now, ‘lana.  It’s too dangerous.”

“Lindsay and your sister.  Rachel.  Where are they?”

Blood drained from Ezra’s face and he shook his head slightly.  “I don’t know,” he said softly.  “I know that they were planning on meeting with some people at the council chambers today.  I’m sure they’re fine.  They’d have made it to cover.”

And I’d know if she was dead.  Alana swallowed against sudden tightness in her throat, lips thinning.  At least, I have to believe that I would.  She’s blood, practically my little sister.  I’d know.

I’d have to know.

“Get back into bed,” Ezra said gently.

“I have to find out where they are,” Alana whispered even as Ezra drew her back to the bed she’d been sleeping in.  “Ezra, I have to know.”  Her throat tightened.  “She’s my family.”

“I know,” he said quietly.  “Just settle.  I dropped my comm somewhere between here and the stairs.  I’ll see if I can raise her once I find it.”

“Promise me,” Alana said fiercely, even as she sank down onto the edge of the bed, cradling her bad arm tightly against her belly.  “Promise me, Ezra.”

“I promise,” he said quietly.  He leaned down to kiss her gently.

A shiver wracked her.

“I have a bad feeling, Ezra,” she said quietly.  “I’ve got a really, really bad feeling.”

“It’ll all be okay,” he murmured, actually sounding like he meant it.

Maybe he does.  Maybe he’s got the hope that I can’t carry anymore.

Ezra kissed her temple and left her there, perching on the edge of her bed, staring blankly at nothing as she hoped against hope that whatever Lindsay had seen all those weeks ago were dead wrong.

1 thought on “Thirty-Three

  1. I hope those things are dead wrong too. I had forgotten she had that surgery. Seems to be doing pretty good though, all things considering.

    Thanks for the update. Wonder who the actual aggressors are?

    Stay warm. Spring is coming!

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