WRITTEN BY: JacksAnnie
TITLE: Missing Sister, the next generation (15 years after)
PAIRINGS/CHARACTERS: Most of main cast feature in this. As for pairings, some you might be able to guess, others will surprise you. A lot has happened in 15 years.
RATING/WARNINGS: I’ll go with PG-13, just in case.
CHAPTER 3: Where we were before
When we started it was years ago, we tried so hard to find our souls
And lose the innocence that won’t let go
So we crossed the line and can’t turn back, happy endings never last
Cause there’s always more to stories never told
Blessid Union Of Souls – Where we were before
15 YEARS AGO (about 3 weeks after returning from the island):
Year 4 AV (After Virus)
Jack rubbed his eyes and yawned. For the past couple weeks he had done nothing but sit in front of a computer, day and night. First figuring out codes and security systems, then searching through a massive database for their friends and other people reported missing. Slade and Ebony were in charge of the stream of people arriving at the hotel (well, the part of the hotel still usable anyway) and getting the list of people having gone missing since the first arrival of the Technos. A small group of Jay-approved Technos along with Jay, Lex and Amber had been sent to the other city the Technos had occupied, to find the prisoners that had been shipped off. Jack’s job was to find information in Mega’s files, and then forward it to the other Techno camp so they knew where to look.
He leaned back in the chair and looked at the folders in front of him. That one pile he kept right next to his computer, adding to it whenever he could. He couldn’t wait to see Ellie’s face when he came home that night. Amber had sent him the message that Alice and KC were alive and well, and both eager to come home. He hadn’t said a word to Ellie about finding Alice in the computer files, he didn’t want to get her hopes up without knowing.
Bray hadn’t been possible to find as of yet, his file said he was missing after the rebels overtook the guards in a bloody fight. Tai-San’s file said the same. Jack had with some curiosity and confusion noted that Mega had placed a notice on Tai-San’s file that she was a safety risk and it was urgent to find her. Jack couldn’t quite see Tai-San as a danger to anyone.
Ved was dead, at least that’s what Jack had read into Amber’s short response that there was no point to looking up his file.
Tally and Andy had files, but not much in them, the last notice on either had been months ago. He had come to suspect files that stopped suddenly with no more information most likely meant the people in question had died.
Cloe was the last he had yet to hear back on. Amber’s last message had told him to wait for more information, which was already three hours ago now. He felt his eyelids dropping, wondering if taking a nap was a good or bad idea. Just then a plinging noise sounded, and a message blinked on the screen in front of him.
“Re: Cloe. She’s alive, barely. Let’s hope she makes the trip.
We’re getting ready to board the ship. We will see you all in a week’s time.
Say hi to everyone. Give my son a kiss from me. –Amber”
A WEEK LATER:
It was a cold morning the day the old cargo ship sailed to the shore. On the docks a large group of people had gathered, the Mallrats standing at the front. The only absences being the little ones and Gel and Sammy who had grudgingly agreed to babysit. Ellie kept shifting her weight from one foot to the other, one hand clutching onto Jack’s tightly while the other was up to her face as she bit her nails. Trudy placed an arm around her, gently patting her on the back. Next to them Lottie was clutching a picture of KC in her hand, still staring at it with a look of disbelief. Was it really possible that she would get to meet her brother again after all this time? Ruby placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders, giving her a comforting smile. Salene stood in silent anticipation, her eyes occasionally meeting Trudy’s with neither of them daring to smile just yet. Before they actually saw their friends walking off that boat it was too soon to believe.
They soon saw Jay stepping of the ship with a few Technos. He waved at them, but stayed behind to register people as they walked off the ship, listing down their names. One by one former prisoners stepped onto the ground of their city again, none of them quite believing it was true. Shouts and screams filled the air as tribes and families found their loved ones. The Mallrats stood of to the side, their faces growing more worried for every person stepping off that wasn’t one of them. Finally Jay waved them over, before disappearing onto the ship again. They all followed.
Ellie was ecstatic to see her sister again, the two of them locked in a tight embrace and crying in joy. Lottie was unsure in her approach to her brother, KC didn’t even recognise her at first, it had been so long. The hug that finally came after a nudge from Ruby was awkward, but they were together again. For Salene it was a moment of dread and shock to see a heavily pregnant Cloe barely conscious and wrapped in blankets on the ship’s deck. For Lex and Amber the moments on the ship were about not showing their disappointment more than anything else. Lex had asked KC and Alice about Tai-San, but they had never seen her. Unlike Bray, who KC had met briefly only to be taken away from the Techno camp Bray had been at. They also let them know the Guardian had been with them before the riot at the slave camp.
The Mallrats had never quite managed to figure out how Tai-San and the Guardian got back to the city or how they ended up together.
THE NEXT DAY:
Cloe moaned in her half-conscious state. Frustrated Salene kept dabbing at her forehead with a damp cloth, as Trudy and Amber stood back, their expressions as pained as Salene’s. Their attention turned towards the doorway when Jay, Jack and Ellie walked in, all three short of breath and still wearing their jackets and coats.
“Anything?” Salene stood up quickly and then sunk back down on the bed deflated at them shaking their heads.
“The only antibiotics we found we can’t be sure won’t hurt the baby,” Jay said with a sigh, “I guess when Ram and Mega had it made they weren’t too concerned about pregnant women.”
Salene took the cloth and dipped it in the water basin next to the bed. She looked thoughtful as she squeezed the water out again. Once she had placed it back on Cloe’s forehead she turned to look at Amber.
“Then we need the Ecos.”
Amber sighed. “Even if they are at the farm like rumours say…”
Salene stood up, waving her arms around in frustration.
“Jet said it! She’s been there, she saw them!”
Jet had told them the Ecos were forced out of the woods by all the people escaping the city when they thought the virus was coming. The woods had been the favourite escape route.
“Even so, Hawk won’t come to the city. I doubt any of the others would either.”
Salene went quiet for a moment and glanced back at Cloe in the bed.
“Then we bring her to them,” she turned back to face the others with a determined look on her face.
“We can’t be sure she’ll survive a trip like that,” Amber said quickly.
“Well she won’t survive if we just stand around here and argue about it!”
Amber and Salene stared at each other, thoughts racing through Amber’s head before she finally nodded.
“Okay. We need a stretcher of some kind. Jack, you’re the genius here, any ideas?”
Jack scratched his head.
“Well, there’s an old wheelbarrow, I could make some kind of stretcher and attach to it, would go faster than carrying her all the way.”
“Do it!” Amber said quickly as he opened his mouth to keep explaining his idea. “Jay, Ellie, help him out. Find some others as well, we need this done quickly. I’m sure Slade wouldn’t mind some distraction from his drama.”
The three disappeared on her order, hurrying downstairs to Jack’s workshop. Amber turned to Trudy.
“You help me find sheets and pillows to make it as comfortable and warm as possible. Sal, you stay here and take care of her until we’re ready okay?”
Salene nodded. Amber was out of there without another word. Trudy gave Salene’s shoulder a quick squeeze before hurrying after her.
A FEW DAYS LATER:
Cloe blinked a few times, the light making it hard for her to focus for a few moments. She thought she must be in a hut of some kind. The ceiling above her seemed to be made of thick grass. There was light coming from somewhere, sunlight. She could hear birdsong around her and distant voices. Before she could look around any more, a face appeared above her. For a moment her thoughts raced to Pride, everything about his appearance screamed Eco.
“Hello,” he said, a smile spreading on his face. “You had us worried there for a while.”
His eyes were kind and she couldn’t help but smile back. She tried to figure out how she had gotten here from the gray concrete walls, black streamlined furniture and the endless walls of monitors and gray computers in the techno camp, but the vague memories were hard to get hold of. A ship? No that didn’t make sense, why would she have been on a ship? But she was sure… and Alice and KC had been there. And then she had been at the mall, she was sure of that. Or had that been a dream? Sometimes the line between reality and reality space or dream-world seemed too blurred now. She wasn’t always sure. But Salene had been so clear. She had remembered trees, gliding across the ground on her back with trees and blue sky above her. That had to have been a dream. And pain, she remembered pain, a lot of pain. A voice telling her to push.
Her hands travelled towards her stomach.
“He is fine.”
Cloe turned towards the man again.
Again that smile, that gorgeous smile. She was sure she had never seen a smile just that pretty before.
“Yes, you have a beautiful baby boy.”
Cloe could feel the tears pressing behind her eyes.
“Where is he?” She tried to sit up, but he placed a hand on her shoulder to gently push her back down. Cloe quickly pulled away from him. He looked taken aback but removed his hand.
“Salene is taking care of him, he’s in safe hands. But he’s asleep right now. As soon as he wakes up she’ll take him to you.”
Cloe nodded, a smile spreading on her face again. A part of her wanted to race off to find him, another just wanted to go back to sleep.
“Do you remember me, Cloe?”
She shook her head, stopping as soon as this caused her head to hurt.
“Not surprising, you’ve barely been conscious these past few days. My name is Hawk, I’m the leader of the Ecos.”
His smile was comforting and she relaxed again, only then realising how tense she had been since she felt his hand on her shoulder. She smiled back at him.
“Nice to meet you, Hawk.”
A COUPLE WEEKS LATER:
Alice and Amber strolled on to the farm; Alice determined, Amber a little more hesitant. They found Cloe with her little boy, and Mouse sitting next to them. Mouse shrieked with joy when she saw Amber, and gave her a big hug. Alice introduced herself to the little girl, before giving Cloe a hug and cooing over the baby.
They all looked up to see Hawk standing there, a look towards Amber that showed very clearly he wouldn’t welcome her with open arms. He gave her a small nod before he turned his attentions elsewhere.
“You must be Alice? I understand this is your farm. We won’t occupy it much longer, but I wanted to thank you for allowing us to borrow it.”
Alice and Amber glanced at each other.
“Actually, that’s why we’re here.” Alice said quickly. “Could we talk in private somewhere?”
Hawk nodded, before turning to Cloe.
“It’s a bit chilly, maybe you should take him inside.”
Cloe rolled her eyes and gave a small smile.
“Alright, Hawk. You just keep thinking of a name for him.”
“I told you…”
Cloe interrupted him.
“And I told you; you saved our lives, I want you to name him. Something Eco-like. Think about it.”
She moved away from them to go inside, Mouse following her after making Amber promise to come see her afterwards.
“You two seem to get along well,” Amber noted, a small smile on her lips as she watched Hawk’s eyes follow Cloe as she walked inside. Hawk’s eyes searched her face, before deciding to change the subject.
“I understand congratulations are in order, City Leader.”
“Thanks,” Amber sighed. “Which again brings us to why we’re here. The city needs a food source, and this farm gives us a great opportunity, but we need help to…”
Hawk held up his hand, and Amber stopped.
“This is her farm, right?” He motioned towards Alice.
“Then I want to hear it from her.”
Alice looked from one to the other. “Okay. Amber and I discussed the best way to get the farm up and running, as quickly as possible, and I suggested asking you and your tribe for help. I know farming, but I can’t do it on my own. All my old farmgirls are long gone, god knows where, and not many others in the city know much about it. If you guys stayed here to help get things started, and help teach some kids who want to learn, then this could be a food source for the city for years to come.”
Hawk looked at her intently, before he sighed, almost in defeat.
“I can’t deny we’ve enjoyed living here the past few weeks. I’m not happy at being that closely involved with the city though.”
“We know that,” Amber spoke up, “but I can assure you the city won’t be like it used to. We’re also planning to set up something at the old hospital, we could use a hand there to. Even though now that Patch has come back we have someone with a clue on these things. I’ve been talking to Salene about setting up a school of some sort. We’re building a new future.”
Hawk gave Amber the same look he had given Alice just a moment earlier, though slightly harder.
“And electricity? We will not work with a city that goes by the same principles the Technos used.”
Amber had to hold back the first response that came to her mind.
“The system the Technos set up will be destroyed. It mostly has been already, from the inside. Jack will be in charge of setting up generators for the important buildings, mainly the hospital for now, and the hotel until Jack and Ram are done looking for the people still missing. I can’t promise we won’t expand that in the future, though mostly we’ll be going back to the old ways of recharging batteries, only on a bigger scale. Another project for Jack, he’ll be busy in the near future.”
Hawk didn’t reply, he just looked thoughtful, his eyes not really focusing on either woman but somewhere between them.
“This is our chance at making the new city dependant only on nature, Hawk. If we don’t get enough food for everyone there will be riots. We might end up forced to turn the power back on to keep things calm. I do not want that.”
Amber felt slightly bad for using that against him, but she could already tell his vision of a nature-friendly world was looking slightly more possible in his eyes.
“I will call a meeting tonight, and we will discuss it. You can stay overnight or return tomorrow for our answer.”
With that he walked away from them.
LATER THAT NIGHT:
The mall was finally quiet. Baby Bray had been difficult, but had eventually fallen asleep. Salene yawned and rubbed her eyes as she entered the café, the old café that they had now moved back to. She made herself a cup of cocoa, staring at the brown liquid in her mug with a sigh when she sat down at one of the tables. Her craving for something stronger was still there.
She had spent the last few weeks being a good friend and listened to all worries and complaints from the three pregnant girls. She had helped deliver Cloe’s little baby, and taken care of him while Cloe recovered. May was being strangely cold towards her, refusing to speak of the father of her unborn baby, and mostly just cursing her life. Ruby had found new entertainment in making Ebony jealous by constantly talking to Slade about the baby and having him touch her stomach to feel if it was kicking. Though Salene didn’t think it was about getting Slade back anymore as much as it was about simply annoying Ebony, Ruby spent most of her time with Ram these days and Salene was sure she had seen something there. She couldn’t quite understand why Ruby would want Ram, but at least it might calm down all the drama with Ebony. Trudy was in her usual moods; high or low at all times. She was either crying over her situation or overly cheerful and kind to everyone. Cloe was the only one seemingly happy about her baby. Salene didn’t understand it. Didn’t they know how lucky they were?
She was startled when Lex entered the café. He raised his eyebrows at her.
“Jumpy tonight are we?” He sounded slightly annoyed, despite the sheriff’s star glimmering proudly on his chest. He soon fell into the chair opposite her with a glass of water in his hand and the bottle in the other, the star being slammed down on the table before he downed the water in his glass in one.
“Rough day?” Salene asked.
He looked at her for a moment as if he was debating with himself what to reveal, the lines on his face softening as he sighed.
“The city is full of messed up kids. That paradise game caused more damage than I thought.”
Salene appreciated his openness, and the fact that not many others would have gotten the same answer.
“The Technos really did a lot of damage,” Salene said, her mind drifting towards what Cloe had told her about her imprisonment, and with a jolt of pain Pride’s face came into her head. Slightly blurry, she had trouble remembering some of his features already, when she wasn’t looking at a picture of him. Finally Salene understood what was on Lex’s mind.
“You’re worried about Tai-San?”
He poured another glass of water, staring at it the same way Salene had found herself staring at her cup of cocoa just a few moments ago.
“Who knows what they did to her or where she is. If she’s as messed up as them and got lost when the prisoners rioted over there…”
Salene reached out and took his hand.
“I should go back and look for her, find another boat…”
“Do you really think there’s any point?”
Their eyes locked together, before Lex quickly looked away. They both knew the stories told by the other prisoners, the varying – but always large – number of dead bodies following the riot. Not one death had been put on record.
“Maybe you should talk to Amber, you’re in the same boat…”
“No, we’re not,” Lex interrupted her. “She has Jay, and her kid. I’ve got nothing.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling,” Salene said weakly.
He turned his hand around to grab hers back, both of them sitting lost in their own thoughts for a moment.
“So the baby-boom is getting to you to?” Lex said finally. Salene nodded, tears pressing behind her eyes.
“It always surprises me how much I actually wanted to be a dad, back when Zan…” Lex stopped himself.
“I never wanted anything more!” Salene barely managed to get the words out before collapsing in tears.
Lex instantly moved closer, letting her cry on his shoulder for a while. When she calmed down and started pulling back he did what he usually did in these situations. He kissed her. To his surprise she kissed him back. When it ended Salene looked horrified.
“Sorry,” the lack of sincerity showed through the smile that appeared on his face. “Don’t know what happened there.”
Salene no longer looked horrified, more confused.
“We-we’re lonely, and tired, and upset…” She began, her voice cracking. She then looked at him, head tilted slightly to the side. Before he could say anything, she kissed him again.
“Just to be clear, this is one night only,” she stated as the kiss ended.
“What I do best, babe,” he replied.
She stood up. “Your room,” was all she said as she walked out.
Lex was left behind a little shocked. Was this really happening? Salene of all people? Would this ruin their friendship? Wait, why was he doubting this? A pretty girl offers him a night of sex with no strings attached, what was he waiting for?
Quickly he got up and followed after her.
6 MONTHS LATER:
Trudy walked down the stairs and towards the workshop, only just woken up from her nap to find her little baby girl, Jayda, blissfully still asleep. In the doorway she stopped, blinked a few times as she tried to make sense of the vision in front of her. Jack and Brady were sitting by his table, Brady with his goggles on and staring intently at something hidden behind a stack of boxes. As Trudy opened her mouth to announce her presence, she heard a loud bang and something hit her on the head. On the floor in front of her fell a small black container, the perpetrator of the pain on her forehead she assumed. She heard Brady giggling, while Jack looked more vary.
“Sorry, Trudy. I didn’t see you.”
“What…what’s going on?”
“Fysacs magic!” Brady shouted excitedly.
“What?” Trudy couldn’t help but smile at the look on her daughter’s face.
“Physics magic,” Jack corrected.
“Yes, fysacs magic! Goes boom!” Brady exclaimed as she threw her hands up in the air to demonstrate.
“I could tell,” Trudy said with a laugh, her hand still covering her forehead.
“Where has Ellie gone?” Trudy glanced towards the desk and spare computer Ellie used for her newsletter.
“Research,” Jack looked from Trudy to Brady, again a vary look on his face.
“Brady, sweetie, why don’t you go to your room and find your crayons and paper? I thought we could sit in the café and draw, and leave Jack to work.”
Brady’s face turned from grin to sour, but she did as Trudy said, shouting goodbye to Jack as she ran off.
“You could leave her here, you know. I don’t mind,” Jack said as he started cleaning up from his little experiment.
“I can tell,” Trudy smiled at him. “You’re her new best friend.”
“Wouldn’t go that far,” Jack mumbled, his face slightly red.
Trudy sat down on the nearest chair.
“So Ellie is doing research? Any news?”
Jack shrugged. “Nothing. Someone saw someone in what might have been a robe. Last time it turned out to be a guy in a long coat.”
Trudy bit her lip. “But he is out there. Alice and KC saw him.”
“A long boat ride away, different country.”
“Lots of boats out there, remember?”
Jack sighed in exasperation, having been through a nearly identical conversation a few times already in the past weeks.
“I’m sorry,” Trudy’s voice broke. “I’m just worried, I just…I know what he wants. And I don’t know how I can protect her.”
Her hand slammed down on the table in frustration, making all the screws, bolts and other little knickknacks on Jack’s desk move. Hurriedly he tried to stop it all from falling to the floor. Trudy fell silent, studying him for a moment.
“Are things okay, with you and Ellie?” Trudy asked after a few seconds of silence.
He was suddenly very busy putting things in place.
“Sure, why wouldn’t they be?” He replied without even looking at her.
“You’re hardly together anymore, and when you are…” Trudy let the sentence hang in the air. They both knew perfectly well the whole mall had heard them fighting, and this time it wasn’t a trick to fool Mega.
“We’re just busy, she’s got stories to chase and I’ve got stuff here.” Jack said sharply, starting to remove screws from an old computer.
“I take the hint,” Trudy tried to put on a smile and ease the tension that had gripped them, but failed. She stood up again, turning in the doorway.
“You’ve been really helpful and kind to me lately, Jack. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you these last few months, and not just for the sake of having you and Ellie babysit,” she smiled but he didn’t look up. “I consider you a friend, despite… despite our differences in the past. I hope we’ve put all that behind us now. My point is, if you need to talk, I’m here.”
“You’re the last person I can talk to,” he muttered, but loud enough for her to hear it. He seemed to suddenly realise he had said it out loud.
“I didn’t mean…”
Trudy held up her hands.
“I get it. Obviously it’s not behind us. Brady’s waiting.”
As quickly as she could she hurried towards the stairs, so he wouldn’t see her getting teary. The emotions threatening to overpower her were stronger than she had expected and confused her. She quickly wrote it off as her hormones still playing tricks on her and pushed it away as she went to face her daughter. In the workshop Jack had sunk down on his chair, elbows on the table and head in his hands.
LATER THAT NIGHT:
Trudy sat on Brady’s bedside, watching over the sleeping girl. Next to the bed was the crib little Jayda lay in. They both slept peacefully. Trudy didn’t these days. She’d wake up from nightmares, the instinct to not wake the kids only just overpowering her urge to scream. She pulled her robe tighter around herself as she stood up and walked towards the doorway. Catching a glance at herself in the mirror; hair standing out in all angles, bags under her eyes darker and larger than she remembered from that morning, the last time she had a moment to worry about such things. With a sigh she hurried past the mirror and towards the stairs. She knew it was silly to constantly go check the security cameras when nightmares woke her up, but it was the only thing that stopped her heart racing. She stopped abruptly in the doorway of the workshop when she saw Jack was in there. He looked up at the sound of her footsteps and for a few seconds they simply stared at each other.
“Sorry,” Trudy broke the silence, “I didn’t know you were here, I was just…”
A grimace that almost looked like a smile appeared on his face.
“Checking the screen?”
She nodded, feeling embarrassed. Jack had set up enough alarms to wake the whole mall if even a stray cat stepped too close to either entrance (which had happened on a few occasions), and there were deputies and others on guard duty around the city.
“Nothing to worry about, I’ve been sitting here a couple hours.”
“Are you that busy, or just unable to get any sleep?” Trudy tentatively took another couple steps inside, the tension coming from him earlier seeming to have faded. Jack merely shrugged in response. Trudy hesitated before asking further.
“Won’t Ellie miss you?”
Jack let out an exasperated sigh. “We had another fight. Told her I’d sleep down here.”
“What happened to you two? Just a few weeks ago you were so happy.”
“I don’t know,” Jack said, anger in his voice. Like he had many times before that day, he leaned forward with his elbows on the table and head in his hands. Trudy’s maternal instinct kicked in and she hurried over to put an arm around him. He quickly stood up, pushing her away and walking a few steps to the side.
“Don’t! Just don’t!” Jack held out his hands, and Trudy simply took a step back.
Jack started pacing back and forth, and Trudy waited.
“She’s just… she accuses me of stuff.”
“She thinks there’s someone else.”
Jack stopped pacing, leaning back against the wall.
“What? No, you’d never cheat on her, she knows that.”
A sound that sounded like something between a short laugh and a loud sigh escaped him.
“No, that’s not it. She thinks… I have feelings for someone else.”
“Oh,” Trudy crossed her arms, “who?” She found herself dreading the answer.
Jack bit his lip, taking a few seconds before he finally replied.
Trudy stood still, her arms falling to her sides again.
“But that’s… I mean, why would she think that?” She was speaking too fast now, her voice getting that high pitch.
“I don’t know how to deal with this,” Jack began, his voice growing higher for every word. “I know science, numbers, computers, electronic gadgets, that’s what I know! Not this!” He waved his arms around, nearly shouting now. Trudy stepped closer as she tried to calm him down.
“I don’t know girls, okay? I’m not good with these things. And she’s accusing me of things I have no control over!”
“Okay, don’t wake the mall up. Calm down, Jack.”
She tried to grab hold of his arms to stop him from knocking something down. He didn’t go quiet until his back hit the wall. Now they were too close, able to feel each other’s breath.
Later on neither of them could really remember who initiated the kiss, it just seemed to happen. It didn’t last very long though, and Jack pushed her off him just as she took several steps back.
“This didn’t happen,” he said quickly.
Trudy shook her head. “No, it was nothing. I should go.”
He didn’t object or say anything else as she walked out of the workshop and away.
2 WEEKS LATER:
They hadn’t spoken since… since that thing that didn’t happen, and now they stayed on opposite sides of the tribe as they all hurried towards the edge of the city. A pang of guilt coursed through Trudy, but she quickly pushed it away. Whatever Ellie needed them for, it had nothing to do with that. The message from her had been vague, but the boy who delivered it said it had been urgent. They sensed danger though, and Slade and most of the deputies had stayed behind to guard the mall. Lex and the small troop he had brought with him were up front, with Amber, Jack and Jay following right behind. Trudy suddenly worried that she should have stayed at the mall with her girls, but told herself they were perfectly safe and guarded. Ellie had been missing for several days now, and when the message came that she needed their help, Trudy hadn’t been able to not go. The continuing pang of guilt wouldn’t let her stay behind. They hadn’t had time to get Alice, but maybe that was for the best, whatever it was Ellie needed them for.
It was while Trudy was lost in her thoughts that things happened in front of them. Around eight people stepped out from the trees, all of them wearing robes. Trudy gasped loudly as she recognised the Guardian, taking a step backwards into Salene who was right behind her. A bigger shock was seeing Tai-San next to him, wearing golden and red robes, stepping out from behind the Guardian. Lex shouted something and ran towards her, only for a Chosen to knock him to his feet and keep him down with his sharpened cane. Two others were dragging something out from the trees, something heavy and burned. It seemed like everyone realised it was a body just as it was dropped down in front of them. The majority of it was burned to the unrecognisable; just a charred body with long blonde hair, and a green amulet hanging around the neck. Someone screamed, several people actually. It took Trudy several moments to realise she was one of them. Jack had fallen to his knees, screaming Ellie’s name. Salene had collapsed to the ground and was throwing up and crying at the same time. Amber was the first to snap out of the shock, putting her arms around Jack and pulling him away from the sight. Lex was shouting obscenities at the Guardian, struggling to get lose from the grip of now two Chosen members. The Guardian searched the group with a satisfied smile on his face, his eyes stopping at Trudy. She had stopped screaming and stared right back at the Guardian with hate in her eyes.
“Just thought we’d let you know,” his voice boomed out over the crowd, “we’re back!”
With that he turned on his heels and together with the rest disappeared among the trees again. The Mallrats were all still too shocked to think of following them. Trudy now only saw one thing, and she hurried over to where Jack and Amber were, putting her arms around him and letting him sob on her shoulder.
Over his shoulder she stared at the spot the Guardian had disappeared, knowing fully well what this all meant. The nightmares had only just begun.