Dream 7-10-2003

Prologue

Illusion of Safety

He set across from Aynne, her lithe form accented against the dull light coming from somewhere high in the ceiling.  She was staring at him again, as she often did.  Most of her people did, given the chance.  They found it difficult to actually see someone of his race among them.  For hundreds of years they had been able to hide, but only through his efforts over the past few months did they still remain hidden, and even then just barely.

The water lapped softly against the pale yellow walls, sometimes reaching up on the platform to gently touch his feet.  It wasn't truly water-it didn't feel wet.  It was liquid though.  It filled most of the corridors completely, and he couldn't breathe it as they could.  The dining room was left empty mostly because the food would move with the current.

"It's only been two weeks since I met you, and three months since I found out about this place.  I still don't believe it."  Josh took a small bite of the fish sitting on an ornate silver plate in front of him.  He'd never really cared for fish, but the way they prepared it was quite different and actually good.

"I never thought that I'd see anyone from above, either." Her voice was strangely melodic, though being out of the water distorted it a little.  He glanced at her, and then looked away again.  She was still staring at him, eyes always slightly widened.  It was almost as though she liked him, though both knew that it was for naught.  He wasn't even going to be allowed to stay much longer as it was.

"I'm going to miss it here," he continued, looking around.  Faint runes of some language illuminated the walls slightly.  He gazed at them for a second before realizing that he was looking at them.  They weren't supposed to be visible.  They were dim, so it was hard to make them out, but the simple fact that they were there was bad.  Others had seemed to notice them too, as a general hush fell over the entire room.  He stood quickly and walked across the platform to where it met the wall in one spot.  Placing one hand flat against the surface, Josh closed his eyes.  It was cool to the touch, but there was a faint vibration in the stone. No. This can't be happening.  He turned and looked at them all, his sadness hidden as he shouted at them.  "Get out.  They're coming.  You have to leave, now!"  His eyes fell upon Aynne and his shoulders slumped.  He looked down at the floor.  He couldn't bear to face her now.

She thought otherwise.  Walking up to him, she put one hand on his shoulder.  "Let's go."  The way she said it made him open his eyes to look at her again.  With a renewed determination, he grabbed her other hand lightly and moved toward the water.

Diving in still scared Josh a little, the feeling of something unlike water all around him a little difficult to understand.  He didn't have time to concern himself with it now.  He had to get her to safety.  She swam easily alongside him.  The first doorway opened to his touch.  It had taken quite some time before the doors would accept his presence.  The runes still glowed faintly when he touched the door.  He swam through and into the corridor.

Luckily there were small pockets here and there that contained breathable air, so he didn't have to worry about drowning.  Aynne still kept pace with him.  He could hear the vibration in the liquid now.

Opening another door, he moved into a half-empty corridor.  To his right he immediately heard a crunching sound, and the wall shattered as a large drilling machine burst through into the cavern.  Four men fanned out from behind the machine as it ground to a halt.  One of them shouted something.  Aynne stood stark still.  Josh pulled on her hand slightly as he moved to the next corridor.  She slipped and fell into the liquid.  He lost his grip on her hand and careened into the door, opening it with his touch.  He fell to the ground.  This cavern was completely empty.  One of the men that was there grabbed Aynne by the hands and pushed her up against the wall.  She slumped forward, unconscious.  He got up and ran toward the man, punching him in the side and then pushing him backward against his foot, tripping him.  Josh grabbed hold of Aynne again, picked her up, and pulled her through the doorway, forcing it to shut behind him.  He locked it as best as the runes would allow him before looking at her.

She didn't appear to be hurt at all; she was just unconscious.  He was amazed at how little she weighed.  She felt frail to him, and perhaps she was.  He looked back at the door.  The runes were glowing much stronger now.  They were trying to get through.  He started to run down the corridor, still carrying the limp Aynne.

He was completely lost by now.  He'd gone through two more doorways, and still hadn't seen any more of the liquid.  He came to another door and touched it, but it wouldn't open.  Standing back, he looked at it.  It wasn't like the others at all.  He set Aynne gently down and put his fingers against the seam of the door.  Grunting with the effort, he pulled the door open and looked inside.  He was amazed.  "It's one of the old elevator shafts," he said aloud, though no one was listening.  He picked Aynne back up and moved into the small room.  The door slammed shut behind him almost instantly, and the elevator started moving upward automatically.  He was nervous about where it went, but he doubted he could stop it now if he wanted to.  He waited, trying gently to rouse Aynne.

The elevator stopped almost two minutes later, but the door didn't open again.  He stood and managed to pry open the doorway again.  He picked up Aynne--she had aroused for a moment before returning to her coma--and walked out.

They were in a factory now; he could tell from the smells and sounds.  He had no idea where yet.  There was a small platform leading around, and then down onto the floor.  He walked down it slowly, watching for people, but there didn't seem to be any, and he reached the floor without incident.  Looking around, he spotted an exit not too far away.  Heading for it, he was almost surprised when a woman started to approach him.  "Who are you?  What are you doing here?" she asked him quickly, almost threateningly.  Josh ignored her and quickened his pace.  He had to get her out of here and hidden.  They would be able to tell she wasn't quite human if they got a good look at her.  The woman, seeing that he wasn't going to answer, ran off in search of someone to tell.

Outside the doorway, he realized that he was in no better position.  A high fence surrounded the immediate area.  Walking toward it, he heard behind him another group of people, and the woman's voice from before.  Looking toward a set of barrels, he jumped up on top of one, and then another, nearly falling off of them both.  Then he jumped onto a tall stack of crates, onto another barrel, and then over the fence, landing on his left ankle bad.  He bit back a curse and stood, hobbling away from the fence as the workers walked out the door.  They yelled at him to stop, but he ignored them, concentrating on moving with the pain in his left foot spreading with each step he took.  It wasn't long before he was running again, out of the factory and into the city.

He stopped only a short time later.  The pain in his ankle was getting too bad to walk, let alone run.  He had decided long ago that he couldn't go straight home.  It would be too easy for people to follow him there.  Instead, he would look for a hotel to stay at, to bide away some time and allow Aynne to wake.  She still hadn't, and although she felt extremely light in his arms, she made running much more difficult.  Looking around, he thought he knew vaguely where they were, and it wasn't far from Murday.  It was easy to get lost in the city, though with night setting upon them quickly, they would stand out more.  Trying to rouse her for a few seconds without avail, he picked her back up and set off again, this time at a walk.  There should be a bus stop around here somewhere he thought.  But I have to wake Aynne up before getting on one.  He looked down at her face, at how calm it looked.  If only she knew what was happening, what had happened, she wouldn't be so calm.

A bus station, thankfully, was only another mile or so away.  He saw a bus there, but as it was heading back toward the factory he had come from, he thought it best to wait for one going the opposite way.  Laying Aynne down on one of the benches, he draped his light coat over her.  She was still breathing slowly, like she was asleep, but he knew it was hopeless to try to wake her now.  A bus pulled up slowly, and with the hissing of brakes, stopped directly in front of him.  The door opened and the driver looked down from his seat.  Josh picked Aynne up from the ground and held her loosely in his arms.  "It's been a long day for her, and she fell asleep."  Getting on the bus, he handed the driver his ScanID card.  "Just deduct both of us from that."  He nodded and swiped the card, punching in a few numbers before handing the card back to the Josh.  He took it carefully in his hand, walking to the back of the bus.  He noticed it was nearly empty, which was odd for this time of day.  He set her down and then sat down himself, leaning her against him so that she looked almost awake.  The doors of the bus closed with another whooshing sound, and the engine hummed into life.

It was over half an hour to arrive at the outskirts of Murday, and another ten minutes to get to the actual city.  He had been a little farther away than he'd thought.  No matter, the farther the better.  He got off the bus right after they had driven by a large hotel, again carrying Aynne.  He knew this place, but had never stayed there.  He walked up to the front desk, and handed the guy behind it his card.  "A room for two, please," he said simply.

The man nodded and looked up from his terminal.  "We only have suites available at the moment, sir.  Would you like to take one of those?"

"Yes, that will do."  This was going to cost him a fortune.  He had no choice though.  There weren't any other large hotels like this in Murday.

The man swiped his card quickly and handed it back to him.  "It's room 743, sir.  Thank you for staying with us, and let us know if we can be of any service to you."  Josh nodded, took back his card, and headed for the elevator.

He stepped into the elevator, still grasping his card as he held Aynne in his arms. He moved to an open space between the others in the elevator,doing his best to ignore the questioning looks. The sooner he got to the room, the better.

As the doors opened, he followed a small crowd out before wandering down the elaborately furnished hallway "732, 733, 734..." He continued down the hall until he came upon his room. "743, here we are," he murmured to no one in particular. Aynne moaned softly as if in response. He hoped it was a sign she would regain consciousness soon. He swiped his ScanID card through the lock, and as it recognized his card, the light flashed green. He maneuvered the door open and moved towards the bed, gently laying Aynne upon it. He then shut the door behind him, locking it.

Once Aynne was settled in, he searched the room, hoping to find something he could bind his ankle with. On the top shelf of the closet, he found a spare set of sheets. He sat upon the bed, relieved to have his weight off his feet. He looked over his shoulder to be sure Aynne was still alright. She moved occasionally, now, as if she were dreaming.  Otherwise, she appeared to be fine.

He then tore the sheet into strips. He felt almost guilty doing so, but then, remembering what he had paid for the room, all guilt fled from his mind. He gently but securely wrapped the strips around his ankle and foot, binding it to give a bit more support. "I hope I havent sprained it..." he muttered.

As he sat on the bed, his exhaustion finally hit him. He hadn't slept in over a day, and even though Aynne was light, walking nearly two miles carrying her had drained him. He lay back, resting his head on the other pillow, and turned to face her.  She was still moving slightly, almost as if she was trying to run away from something. He rested a hand on her shoulder, and she seemed to calm down a little, sinking into a deeper sleep.  Hopefully she would wake up soon.  Josh closed his eyes, and was almost instantly asleep.