The emergency room was in absolute chaos.
Once my ankle was tended to, I insisted someone else take my bed. Other than having a hairline fracture and a few deep gashes on my leg, I was in far better shape than anyone else.
Taking refuge in Kit’s bay of the ER, I could hear crying and frantic shouting from outside the curtain. Hundreds of others were injured and many far more grievously than we had been. Children were screaming and mothers were weeping. I wondered just how many of them would be orphans and widows by the end of the day.
The siege hadn’t ended yet. There could be more bombs. Nobody yet knew exactly what the Forge had planned. Night was coming and the darkness was only just beginning to fall on us. And ever so periodically the ground shook, telling me that another explosive had gone off somewhere in the city.
Teagan remained armed and on guard beside me, keeping a wary ear open to our surroundings. Until Mortimer arrived, we were under orders to hunker down here. Hospital security was relatively overwhelmed right now, but the bedlam provided cover for us all the same. Nobody would think to look for us here. As he got off the phone, I asked, “Well?”
“Ten major bombings; thirty-seven IEDs on the streets,” he muttered, shaking his head. “The police are unsuccessfully trying to manage the forays into downtown, but the Forge managed to take a few uptown sections entirely with their forces. They’ve got control of a sixth of the city.”
So they were gaining strength. Considering how strong the police and armed forces were in this city to begin with, that boded ill.
As if reading my thoughts, Teagan muttered, “The trouble seems to be that a large portion of the police is openly defecting and another portion suspected of sabotage. We’ve been undermined from the inside.”
Turning traitor myself seemed like a good idea. Slipping away while confusion was reigning might not be a bad move. The only reason I remained here was lying in the bed next to me.
Looking at Kit as he got a blood transfusion, his wounds bandaged as best the emergency staff could for now, I wasn’t sure what would happen to him. He was on his side to avoid putting pressure on the wounds. I did, however, release a huge sigh of relief as Teagan added, “Good news is that one of the bombs wrecked a good portion of the Tourney stadium. The competition has been put off indefinitely.”
“So where are we at then?” I asked, dreading the answer.
“They’re going to evac you, Elena and your father to a bunker,” he said grimly. “Personally, I think they should’ve done it already…“
He cut off as the curtain parted, revealing Yaron as he stepped in. Grudgingly lowering his weapon, Teagan stood down. Neither of us were relieved to see him by any means. Nor were we sure how he’d found us.
Unlike me in my current condition, Yaron stood perfectly unharmed and unruffled as he demanded, “Anna, have you been treated?”
As I nodded, he said tonelessly, “Good. We’ll be getting you out of here shortly. We’re unable to get armored vehicles through since people are going mad in the streets. As for that nuisance the Lynx, he’s finally been caught red handed. They spotted him on the security monitors just before the bomb went off.”
Alarms sounded in my mind, realizing that he was being falsely blamed for the explosions. If they blamed him, they could effectively vilify him and convince the city he was to blame for all the deaths.
“No,” I huffed out, deciding to lie to buy time until I could question him myself. Meeting Yaron’s forbidding gaze, I murmured, “He was there to stop the bomb. He tried to warn me.”
Both Teagan’s and Yaron’s gazes darkened with my words; Teagan’s with dread and Yaron’s with interest.
“He came to you?” Yaron said, studying me more closely.
“He saved me from an abduction attempt by the Forge a few nights ago,” I muttered, wringing my hands. “So I guess he felt more confident approaching me instead of security. He warned there was a bomb and he couldn’t find it. I didn’t make it out in time. He could still be trapped in the wreckage or dead. I don’t know.”
That last bit was true. He could be. When I’d found him, he’d been rummaging through the file cabinets, so I very much doubted he’d known anything about the bombs. A rational person would’ve fled the premises if they knew.
As Yaron bore down to question me, Teagan let out a curse. Looking back, I saw him looking at a television monitor visible over our bay. As he turned up the sound, reaching it easily, a whole new kind of fright filled me.
My father was holding a press conference from somewhere in the hospital, one that seemed to be on whole going disastrously. He was shouting at the press as they demanded questions. And by all indicators, he’d lost his composure completely.
“It’s the people’s fault!” he yelled back at them, waving his fist at the cameras. “If they had set the industrial quota for the quarter, this wouldn’t have happened! It’s their own laziness coming back to haunt them! And the Forge knows it, too!”
Considering a great deal of noise sounded outside the curtains, it seemed that just about everybody in the ER had heard him, too. And none of it sounded positively received.
“He’s insane,” Teagan muttered to himself, likewise hearing the volume of people escalating around us. “Citizens won’t stand for this.“
“He’s blaming the people?” I murmured, looking at Yaron as his jaw twitched. “Was this planned and scripted?”
As Yaron’s unnaturally cold eyes turned to me, I saw a whole new danger coming my way. Frighteningly inhuman fury showed plainly across his face, telling me that the answer was a resounding no. The shadow government hadn’t condoned this.
“This goes too far,” he replied, looking me over with a new objective in mind. With that said he swept back out, leaving the chill of his words behind him. And I knew damn well what it could mean.
If Father had displeased the elite overlords, there was no telling what they’d do. At best, they’d depose him. More likely, they’d kill.
The realization was only amplified as there was a deafening crash from beyond where we were. Teagan stuck his head out and quickly retracted it, drawing the curtain completely closed.
“Time has run out,” he said, turning to me. “People are forcing their way in the ER doors. I’m not waiting. We’re evacuating now.”
As I stood to move into action, Teagan coming over to support me since my ankle wasn’t completely steady, a quiet murmur made me pause. Looking back, I saw Kit’s eyes open blearily before looking around.
“Aiyla?” he called again, rapidly coming to. His eyes were dilated, likely from the pain medication.
Limping over, I stooped to his side. “I’m here. You’re safe now.”
He blinked, focusing on me with difficulty. “What is that? I hear-“
The crowds were gaining volume and trying to crack the doors in. I could hear it, too, and so could Teagan as he hovered over me. “They’re revolting. Look, I’ve got to go. Tell the Lynx that they think he planted the bomb. I covered for him, but I doubt they believed me.”
Kit’s eyes widened into alarm, losing all signs of drowsiness. “Covered? What do you mean?”
“Said he tried to warn me of the blast-“
“No,” he moaned over me, looking terrified at the idea. “You didn’t! Tell me you didn’t! It’s too dangerous!”
Lowering myself to his level, I touched his cheek. “Doesn’t matter now. The staff will take care of you when I’m gone.”
“Heard Yaron,” he huffed out, trying to fight against whatever drugs were in his system. He tried to push himself onto one arm before sinking back down.
I nodded. “Yes, he’s coming to take me away.”
The blood drained from his face. “No. If you go with him, The Lynx won’t be able to get to you. You told him you wanted out – to be free…”
As he fought against the pain medications to speak, my mind whirled. “How did you know that?”
“Get to St. Michael’s Orphanage,” he insisted, still panicked by the idea of my going with Yaron. Struggling to move, he managed to remove a ring from his finger and placed it in my hands. “Alvin will hide you if you show this to him. Don’t go with Yaron. I know what he’ll do to you.”
His eyes practically begged me not to, but I tried to place the ring back in his hands. “I’ll never make it that far. They’ll catch me.”
“You have to try,” he begged, pushing it back to me as the beeping of his heart monitor sped up. “You’ll never get the chance again. This isn’t about me. I don’t care if you never want to see me again after this, but you’ve got to try to escape. I won’t be able to help you if you go with him.“
“We’ve got to go, Aiyla,” Teagan insisted firmly from behind me.
“Make him take you there,” Kit insisted vehemently, clutching my hand and eyeing him over my shoulder. “He cares about you. Go! I’ll be fine.”
I wasn’t sure quite what to do. Part of me was terrified by either decision, but looking into Kit’s eyes, I realized I didn’t care. The only future I saw worth living was one with him in it.
With his saving me, he hadn’t only saved my life. He’d saved my heart as well. Saved it from a slow destruction with the path I’d been on. He’d brought me back from the darkness I’d been in after Lola’s death. Kit had revived my will to fight to live.
If I didn’t try to run now, I wouldn’t have the chance again. I’d never get to be with him.
Before I could stop myself, I leaned in and kissed him softly. He leaned into my kiss; greedily stretching after me to keep the contact between us and not wanting it to end as I pulled away. Already regretting parting, I whispered, “You’d better be. I’m not letting you go that easily.”
A faint smile tugged at his lips as he pressed the ring into my palm, looking into my eyes. “I will find you. Go. Te amo, mi vida.”
That last bit flabbergasted me, confessing that he loved me and especially considering the circumstances. But judging by the look in his eyes, he meant every word despite the pain killers in his system.
His focused changed as he looked over my shoulder, ordering in a forceful tone, “Get her out of here.”
Hating tearing myself away while he was injured, I forced myself to move as Teagan took my arm. He pulled me out the back of the curtains, the both of us heading for the rear staff entrance to the ER.
I looked over my shoulder for one last glimpse of Kit but he was enshrouded from my view by the curtains around the bed, lost to me as we rounded the corner. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I limped along, trying to keep up with Teagan’s swift pace. I’d have to trust the nurses to watch over Kit now. He’d be safest here. The elites wouldn’t care about him anymore now that the Tourney was cancelled.
“We’ll get out the deliveries bay in the lower level,” Teagan muttered, keeping a wary eye on all corners as we moved along.
“Take me to St. Michael’s,” I ordered, wiping my eyes as we went and slipping Kit’s ring into my pocket for safekeeping.
“Let’s focus on getting out of here first,” he said, propelling me along by the back with the other hand keeping his weapon on the ready. “By the time the Forge is finished making a meal of this, your father’s regime won’t last through the night. Until everything cools down, we’re gonna disappear,” he said adamantly, catching me as I almost stumbled and handing me my gun. “Mortimer will cover for us. We’re not taking any chances with you.”
Without question, I accepted my weapon from him, Teagan having taken it while I was treated. I cocked it, keeping it aimed at the floor with both hands and echoing his stance as we moved along.
“If we’re separated, steal a nurse’s uniform and run,” he instructed, voice growing tenser with every step. We headed into a back stairwell, descending further into the hospital’s bowels. “Change your appearance. If they catch me, they’re going to charge me with treason for disobeying-“
“You’re following my orders. I lied and told you that my father gave me a secret emergency plan,” I said, giving him a fake cover story to use. “If it’s too much, I can go on my own.”
The look he shot me was positively scathing. “You know better than that, Aiyla. I’m with you to the end.”
Reaching the door at the bottom of the stairs, Teagan prowled ahead gun first and gestured for me to hang back while he checked out the hall. But as he retreated back a step and squared his shoulders to aim, I knew we were in deep trouble.
“Where are you two off to?” Haynesworth’s lilting voice came from around the corner, Teagan stopping dead without lowering his weapon. “Odd that you’d be sneaking off now…”
Just by his tone, I knew we were screwed. There was suspicion that we were defecting from the Hacienda. Peering around the corner, I saw three other policemen with him. They’d blocked our exit. Yaron must’ve discovered us gone and sent them after us.
“Evacuating,” Teagan replied, not relaxing from his aggressive stance. “Move.”
“That’s funny considering Yaron ordered you to wait for him,” Haynesworth replied, crossing his arms. To my dismay, I heard footsteps coming from the stairwell above us. “He sent me to look for her since she’d gone…”
As his eyes traveled over me, I had the worst thrill of foreboding. Where there once was friendship and lust, now there was nothing but disgust. That along with a great deal of malice.
“You’d better come with us,” he said as two police officers rounded the corner behind me, boxing us in. “Everyone is in the conference room waiting.”
“The building isn’t secure,” Teagan insisted, voice deepening into threatening territory. I knew exactly what he’d want me to do. He’d fire on them while I ran, sacrificing himself. He was just waiting for the opportune moment to strike.
“Says who?” Haynesworth replied coolly, gesturing with two fingers to lower our weapons. “Are you complying?”
His tone told me that we’d be shot if we resisted. Lowering my weapon, I placed a hand on Teagan’s back while slipping past him. While I knew he’d fight to protect me, all it would do is get him killed. I wouldn’t let one more person die for my sake.
His fingers twitched on the trigger as I passed him, seeing that I’d given myself up. There was no fighting it now. As he in turn lowered his gun, Haynesworth sneered, “Consider yourself fired. Get out.”
As he spoke, the two men beside him grabbed me by the arms and steered me toward the elevator at the back end of the hall. Seeing Teagan move convulsively to stop them, I shook my head.
Before I could speak, however, I cried out as he was struck from behind and knocked to the ground. The men from the stairwell streamed out behind him, weapons aimed at his back.
“Don’t hurt him!” I cried as Teagan remained still. “He was trying to do his job!“
“Not one word,” Haynesworth hissed at me, pointing at the elevator with one damning finger. “Get in.”
Copyright 2020 Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel