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It was definitely a good idea, considering they were both grimed up from the tunnel. So much for the shower he'd taken before they'd left his house. [b "Showers it is,"] he pushed himself back on his feet.
The t-shirt felt threadbare and the sweatpants had seen better days, but they felt soft in his hands as they found their way down the hall to the bathrooms. It was divvied up with the men's room on one side and the women's directly across the hall. In his groggy state, Milo was dumb enough to actually wish Selene luck with her shower before he disappeared behind the door to his own.
It was surprisingly clean, all things considered. Toilet stalls stretched along the far wall and the showers stood in the middle of the room with thin wooden walls standing chest-high to offer some semblance of privacy. Mercifully, Milo was on his own. He snatched a bar of soap and wash rag from a wicker basket propped on a chair and went to work scrubbing away the debris.
The warm water was as close to heaven as he was going to get, he thought to himself. When the hell was the last time he'd had a warm shower? He couldn't even remember it being in the last decade. For a while he just stood under the stream of water and felt it relaxing his aching muscles. Only the fear of fall asleep in the public stall was enough to snap him out of his daze to finish scrubbing at his hair to rinse off.
Laurel's clothes almost enveloped him like a kid playing dress-up. Milo was at least thirty pounds lighter and it showed with how the shirt hung off his shoulders with the stretched out neckline, and how he'd had to tighten the drawstring as far as he could in order to keep the pants on his hips. He looked pathetic with his wet curls falling into his face but he was far too tired to actually dry himself off much. He just wanted to get to sleep.
When he rejoined Selene in the hallway, he smiled. [b "We don't look like cave trolls anymore,"] he teased, tugging a lock of her own damp hair. [b "We should get back to the room before we get lost around here."]
Laurel or Henry must have returned to the room while they'd been gone, as there was a tray with fresh bread and some oranges waiting for them when they got back. [b "They aren't entirely terrible, I guess,"] Milo muttered, grabbing an orange and falling back to his bed.
He peeled the rind in silence before looking over to her. [b "I want to know what you're feeling, about all this. Do you want to learn more about what they're doing? Or should we go on our own like we originally planned?"]
[center Selene watched him but found it hard to make a lot of eye contact. She was probably more forgiving than Milo was, but she wasn't willing to admit that out loud. She had always been told growing up that she needed to learn how to handle herself better. That she needed to stand up for herself when she'd been wronged or hurt. She had just never been the type to hold a grudge.]
[center When he spoke about the shower, she tugged at her clothes. She [i was] quite filthy. She just hadn't realized it before because she hadn't had a chance to get a good look at herself. She had to wonder what she looked like their eyes. [b "Thank you, Laurel,"] she said quietly, still looking away from him.]
[center She instead turned her attention to Milo, giving him a half smile. He looked so pitiful and it made her grateful that she hadn't needed to medicine he'd taken. She was sure she'd hate the feeling. She never liked feeling sick or not feeling like herself. She liked to stay vigilant and she couldn't do that if she were in the same condition he was.]
[center At his question, she shrugged, looking around once more. [b "I'm impressed, if anything. I really want to get a good look at the place right now."] Though she wouldn't try to sneak out. She didn't want to get either of them in trouble. She sighed before standing and wrapping her arms around herself. [b "A warm shower sounds great right now, does it not?"] She smiled at him. She wasn't sure how well she would sleep that night, but being clean would be a good start to relaxation.]
Milo was easily distracted and wandered to peak in the wardrobe against the wall. Generic black shirts hung on hangers and sets of sweatpants and some kind of tactical cargo pants were folded in the drawers below. [i "No undergarments?"] he asked after Selene had made her own question.
Laurel spared him a glance. [i "Underwear and socks are the bottom drawer. Some of shirts and pants are mine for you to borrow, but there's stuff in there for Selene as well, courtesy of a few of the women here."]
Turning back to Selene, he carefully approached and sat opposite her, on Milo's bed. [i "It's best not to wander, even if you're tempted. Some places here are heavily guarded and if you're a new face they aren't familiar with, they can get hostile. Henry wasn't lying when he said he'll give you a tour tomorrow. You'll see the labs and intelligence we've gathered over the years."]
A dulled silence fell among them as he tried to compile his rapidfire thoughts. [i "I'll give you as much time as you both need, to understand what I did. I want to explain everything but I know its not what you need right now. The two of you have always been my best friends, and I'd hate for that to change. All I can say right now is that I'm grateful you trusted me to get you this far."]
[b "'Trust' isn't the word I'd use. 'Desperation' is more like it,"] Milo collapsed on the bed behind him, burying his face into the pillow. [b "When will these stupid drugs wear off?"]
[i "You should feel back to normal by morning. You're just high right now, that's all. It's nothing that'll get worse. Sleep it off and your head will be cleared right up,"] he answered.
Rising from the bed, he awkwardly looked around for anything else he might need to inform them of. [i "I recommend getting cleaned up before you sleep. Laundry doesn't get done as often as we'd like around here, and you don't want to get those sheets covered in dirt and grime. Bathrooms are up the hall, with showers inside. There'll be towels and cleaning supplies, so you should be set."]
Laurel wanted to stay. He wanted to sit with them for hours, spilling his heart to them and pleading his case to stay in their good graces. More than anything, he wanted them to be able to relax in each others presence. He hadn't missed how Selene's shoulders were tensed when he was around her, nor how Milo's eyes held anger and disbelief when they met his own.
For the first time since joining the resistence, he regretted his decision to obey the orders given to him, if it meant he was losing his friends' trust and affection. [i "I'll leave you to get settled,"] he cleared his throat. [i "I'll come and get you for breakfast in the morning. Get some rest."]
The room fell quiet as the door closed behind him. Milo peaked an eye open, waiting to hear the sound of a lock sliding in place to keep them inside but it never came. [b "What do you think of all this,"] he asked his companion, gesturing to the room around them. [b "I can't believe a place like this is even standing after the war."]
[center Selene shielded her eyes for a moment, waiting for them to fully adjust. As she listened to Henry speak, she looked around, trying to take everything in. It was a bit overwhelming, to say the least. It didn't help that she didn't understand half of what the man was saying. She looked at Milo as he spoke, squeezing his hand. she couldn't blame him for asking. If the place collapsed on them, their escape would be for nothing. It wasn't a thought she liked.]
[center She was glad to see, though, that his curiosity mirrored her own. She wanted to know anything and everything she could about the world outside, and this definitely seemed like the place to start. It was a bit disappointing, then, when they were told they would have to wait. Selene was patient, however, and sleep [i did] sound good.]
[center She turned her attention to Laurel, unsure if she wanted him to take them or not. She wanted to trust him, trust that he was still the same person that they'd known before, but it was evident he wasn't, and the two of them being alone with him did exactly sound ideal at that moment.]
[center But she followed him anyway, feeling her cheeks flush a little as they entered the room. She was grateful that there were two beds, but it still felt a little strange to know they'd be sharing a room. When they'd discussed having a place of their own before, she'd always thought they'd have separate rooms or something. [i This isn't your own place,] she quickly reminded herself.]
[center The tone in Laurel's voice made her look at him again and it made her heart hurt. She didn't want to feel guilty for being angry, and with each passing minute, it was getting harder and harder to hold onto that anger. Sighing, she moved away from Milo and threw her arms around their friend, closing her eyes for a moment. [b "We need time,"] she said. [b "You dumped everything on us so fast, we haven't had a chance to take it all in."] She pulled away and looked up at him. [b "You also tried to do something pretty bad, though I guess I understand it. But still..."] She let out another sigh and ran a hand through her hair. [b "Just give us time, Laurel,"] she said softly before moving away.]
[center She wanted to forgive him, but the situation with the soldier and Milo was still very clear in her mind. It didn't matter how much she wanted to let go of her anger. Laurel scared her and she couldn't cope with that right now. Not when she was ready to pass out.]
[center [b "Is there anything we should know?"] she asked, walking over to one of the beds and sitting down on it.]
The lights were brighter than anything he'd ever seen. Milo's eyes squinted against the harsh contrast to the darkness outside, but obediently followed Laurel into the tunnel. It was clinically clean despite having been dug into the base of a canyon wall. He looked around like a curious child, sticking close to Selene just in case.
[i "Before the last war, the government was getting a bit more careful about where they build their bases. Almost every major base around the country was well know at the time thanks to satellites and internet and whatnot, so they had to get creative when things started going sour,"] Henry was a digillent tour guide behind them as they moved through the corridors. [i "They started hiding their bases wherever they could. Under lakes, in mountains, in the deserts. This one was built into the base of a canyon to keep military labs secure. They had it rigged to collapse the canyon in on the base, in the event that the enemy ever found it."]
It was a lot of information being thrown at them. Between replicating medicine of the past and the overtaking of the base, understanding military strategy was not something Milo was capable of in that moment. [b "Is it still rigged?"] his voice wavered.
[i "No, not at all. The devices they used in those days have long since dissolved over time. Water damage and corrosion essentially deteriorated the fuses and wires. It was a pain getting electricity running again, but we found these solar panels in storage that have been a big help."]
He'd never felt like a such an idiot. Their education was limited in the city, and didn't go anywhere near discussing how electricity worked, let alone how humans could harness it. [b "Can we see them? The panels?"]
Henry smiled. [i "Of course. That will have to wait until tomorrow, however. It's rather hard to see them in the dark. Your rooms are this way. Tomorrow I'll show you around the labs and whatnot, and then we can look at the solar panels. It's quite facinating how they work."]
Laurel spoke for the first time since entering the building, clearing his throat. [i "I think I'd better show them where they'll be sleeping, and you can discuss more in the morning."]
The older man nodded, understanding that he may have overstepped in his excitement. [i "Right. Well, sleep comfortably, you two. You're safe here."]
Henry left them alone in the hallway with Laurel, who seemed just as unsure of the situation as Milo felt. [i "Right around the corner here,"] he moved past.
The room was simple, but more cozy than Milo had expected. Two single beds were against the far wall, spaced about a foot apart. He glanced to Laurel, who shrugged. [i "The two of you would have ended up in the same room at some point during the night. I figured I'd save you the time and just set both beds up in here. It might make you more comfortable to have someone familiar nearby."] The sad tone in his voice made it clear that he knew he wasn't one of those familiar people they could trust right now.
[center Selene bit her cheek, more guilt stabbing at her. [b "That...makes sense,"] she said, glancing at Milo as he leaned his head back. [b "Sorry."] The word was soft, hardly above a whisper. She had no idea if he'd heard her, and if he hadn't, it was just another thing she would apologize for when she got the chance to sit down and talk with him.]
[center She watched Henry as he spoke, not wanting to admit how impressed she was by his words. They'd obviously been up to this stuff for a long time and it was a miracle they hadn't been caught yet. It made her wonder, too, where they got their supplies from. Had they just been stealing things the entire time? And if so, how come no one had ever noticed? She sighed softly. She felt like they had more questions than answers.]
[center Looking at Milo, she sighed, patting his head once more. [b "I'm sure it would be,"] she said with a smile, glancing at Laurel. Was this a normal side effect of the tablet, or was Milo one of the unlucky few who experienced drowsiness the way he did? Whatever the case, she hoped it wore off soon.]
[center Though Henry had warned them, Selene still wasn't prepared for the sudden shift, and she felt her stomach drop for a moment. If she hadn't been feeling nauseous before, she was now. Still, she refused to take the tablet, taking deep breaths instead to settle herself. The girl was stubborn to a fault and it showed.]
[center She let out a sigh of relief when they evened back out after what felt like forever. She glanced at her sleepy friend, making sure he was still okay. She was even more relieved when they were finally able to get out of the cramped vehicle. She stretched her arms over her head, mirroring Milos' lack of enthusiasm for the cave. She had been expecting something a little more-]
[center Her mouth fell open as the wall moved. Now [i that] was more like what she'd been expecting. Maybe not the wall specifically, but a secret entrance or something for sure. [b "Laurel, how did you ever find the time to come here and not get caught?"] she asked him, staying beside Milo. She kept an arm around him, just in case.]
[i "If I'd have told him it was going to make him sluggish and drowsy, he wouldn't have taken it,"] Laurel tried to defend himself. [i "I know I'm not exactly number one on either of your People to Trust lists, but I don't want to see either of you sick or injured, despite what you might think of me. He's tired, but at least he's not on the verge of painting us all with vomit."]
Milo scowled. [b "I hate that all of that made sense. Holy hell this stuff is potent,"] his head dropped back against the seat.
Henry at least had the good decency to look apologetic. [i "Our lab has been working towards replicating old medications for common illnesses ailments. Antibiotics, antinauseants, pain medicine, those kinds of things. Unfortunately they're working off books with faded formulas and have had to play trial and error more than once. I'll let them know to cut back on whatever ingredient causes the sleepy feeling."]
Milo didn't even have the energy to respond. It felt like the time Laurel had given them muffins that he'd added a special ingredient to, and they'd been too relaxed and sleepy to do anything but lie on the bunker floor until their heads cleared. He still wasn't sure what that stuff was, but he had a feeling it might be in that little tablet. [b "If we weren't on the run, this might be nice,"] he let his head drop to the side to smile sleepily at Selene.
[i "Definitely going to cut that formula in half,"] he heard Laurel utter.
When they finally approached the descent into the canyon, Henry had the courtesy to warn them before the jeep pitched forward. It was hard to be anything but grateful for the blocked windows hiding what was likely a terrifying drop from their view. Their seatbelts tightened against their chests and waists, keeping them firmly in place despite gravity wanting to drag them downwards.
The two men up front weren't phased at all. Of course, they'd probably done this half a dozen times every week whereas this was new terrifying territory for their rescuees. Milo figured there had to have been a ramp to get them back out again because this tilt was way too upright for any vehicle to climb up.
Milo's limbs felt like rubber when the jeep evened back out at the base of the canyon. The darkness of night covered the entire ridge so drastically that he couldn't see ten feet in front of him when they left the jeep at the mouth of a narrow opening in the canyon wall. [b "A cave? Headquarters is a cave?"] he squinted at the wall, entirely unimpressed.
Henry smirked. [i "Give us a little more credit."]
A handheld device appeared out of one of his pockets. A sequence on the keypad later, and the wall was moving. [b "Holy fuck,"] Milo's jaw dropped.
[i "Welcome to headquarters,"] Henry gestured for them to follow Laurel inside a brightly lit hallway stretching further inside the cavern.
[center Selene was just as confused as Milo when Henry spoke. She didn't believe that anyone had left the planet, even before the world took a turn. It just didn't seem possible. A shuttle just didn't sound like something that was big enough or strong enough to do something like that.]
[center She sighed softly and rubbed his back a moment later, hating that he felt so bad. While she wasn't used to the rough terrain and high speeds, it wasn't bothering her like she thought it would. Definitely not as bad as it was him. She wished she could take away his pain and put it on herself. At least that way he wouldn't look so miserable.]
[center Looking up, she watched Laurel, immediately on the defensive with whatever he was trying to hand them. It was a feeling she hated since it concerned her friend, but she still wasn't sure that she could trust him. She hadn't forgotten what he'd try to do. She looked away at his words, doubt replaced by guilt. He had a really good point, that she couldn't deny.]
[center She took the other tablet from Milo but shook her head. [b "I'll keep in in hand, but I won't take it unless I feel like I need to."] She gave him a small smile. [b "Or I'll save it in case you need another one."] She continued to run her free hand through his hair, hoping he would feel better.]
[center However, when the drowsiness hit, she felt a little angry. Medicated or not, she didn't like seeing her best friend like that. [b "No, don't be mad,"] she said, looking at Laurel. She narrowed her eyes a little. [b "You could have at least warned him,"] she said, looking at the one in her hand. She definitely wasn't going to take it now. One of them needed to be alert.]
[b "Humans are not supposed to go this fast,"] his head was reeling.
[i "You'd be surprised just how much the human body can handle,"] Henry rejoined the conversation. [i "This is nothing. Astronauts were capable of withstanding massive g-forces when exiting and entering the earth's atmosphere. In fact, it was required or else they weren't qualified to launch on the shuttle."]
Milo lifted his head, looking identical to a confused puppy. [b "I'm going to stop you right there. I have no clue what half of those words mean. If you want to talk basic math, I might be able to keep up."]
Laurel murmured something to Henry, who glanced at the backseat with a sheepish grin. [i "Right, well, that's a topic for another day. Forget what I said."]
The terrain must have gotten more rugged because the jeep lurched with every turn. Side to side, up and down it bounced. [b "Just kill me,"] Milo twisted and buried his face in his hands, feeling his stomach tossing around with each movement of the vehicle.
A hand tapped at the top of his head. Looking through his fingers, he came face to face with Laurel's outstretched hand holding two green looking tablets. They must have looked confused because he twisted further in his seat to face them better. [i "It's made of something called a ginger root. It'll settle your stomach and should take away the nausea. We're still about thirty minutes away from base, and this isn't a great area to stop for you to get out and puke."]
Milo took one of the tablets and looked warily between it and the blonde in the front seat. [i "I wouldn't have gone to all this trouble of getting you out just to poison you,"] Laurel frowned. [i "You'll feel better."]
Unable to handle the queeziness any longer, Milo popped the tablet in his mouth and dry-swallowed. It was chalky and foul to taste but if it did what Laurel said it would, he'd be willing to suffer to not feel like death. [b "Do you need one?"] Milo took the other tablet and held it out to Selene.
[i "It does get a little rougher just outside the headquarters. It's in the middle of a canyon and the descent is...steep,"] Laurel turned back to the front.
Ten minutes later and Milo did feel the nausea going away but a new grogginess was taking over. [b "Why am I sleepy?"] he mumbled.
[i "That'll be the medicine. It's kind of like a sedative right now but we're working on a way to make them that doesn't enduce drowsiness. It's okay, we're almost there,"] Henry advised.
Milo looked at Selene. [b "Should I be mad? I feel too tired to be mad about being drugged."]
Laurel snorted. [i "Not so much 'drugged' as you were 'medicated'. They've already arranged your rooms at base so you can sleep once we get there. Just stay awake as best as you can. I don't much feel like carrying you inside."]
[center Selene's eyes widened and she gasped, catching the quick light before it disappeared. She couldn't contain her excitement at knowing what they were called. [i Shooting stars...] She had no idea they could move, and it was absolutely breathtaking. She was a child seeing the world for the first time and she loved it.]
[center She finally tore her gaze away from the sky to look at the vehicle, raising a brow. She had never seen one with so much armor before. It made sense in her mind, but it was cause for concern. Especially when Laurel mentioned hostiles. Her heart jumped into her throat for a moment. Could they still be caught? She didn't want to think about it, but the possibility was frightening.]
[center Following Milo inside, she sat beside him, smiling at him. [b "Perfect,"] she said, keeping her hand in his. The sound the vehicle made caused her to jump, the smile quickly fading. She had no idea how loud they could really be and she hadn't exactly been prepared for it. She looked to Henry, gulping a little. She prayed he was right.]
[center She turned to Milo, a faint blush coloring her cheeks before letting out a nervous laugh and patting his head. She glanced at Laurel and shrugged. [b "I'm sure we'll be fine,"] she said, turning her attention back to her friend. She ran her fingers through her hair, doing her best to comfort him.]
What else had they missed out on? As long as he could remember, they'd been taught that danger and death awaited anyone outside of the city. All he saw was stillness. The silence was peaceful and as far as he could tell, no threats were looming in the vast plains. If he wasn't so mesmerized by their surroundings, he'd be furious about this being kept from their eyes.
[b "Holy shit, they move!"] he pointed with his free hand as a streak of light shot across the sky.
[i "Shooting stars,"] Henry filled in the blanks. [i "Not that uncommon but quite difficult to see in a city setting. The jeep is just up here."]
The vehicle was masked behind a fairly well done camoflauge paintjob, hidden among a thicket of bushes. It was far bulkier than the rickety truck used at the mines, and had thick metal plating welded to the doors and roof. Only slivers of window peaked out between the armor. [i "Don't be worried about all that,"] Laurel tried to reassure him. [i "We just like to be prepared if we come across hostiles."]
Milo wanted to ask if such hostiles were common occurances for them, but felt it was probably better to just get inside and ask questions later. It was hard to find a comfortable place to sit with the amount of equipment stashed inside. Hell, he couldn't even see what the equipment was with how dark it was. [b "You good?"] he shifted to make room for Selene.
If it was possible for a vehicle to sound mean, this thing fit the description. An angry rumble shook the seats as the engine churned to life, loud enough that it was a miracle nobody in a five mile radius heard it. [i "These aren't exactly built for stealth but we're safe inside,"] Henry's voice rose to carry over the noise. [i "I'd buckle in, if I were you."]
The words were barely out of his mouth before he slammed on the gas and the jeep shot forward. Whatever rush he claimed they were in seemed legitimate as the tires slid along the ground, kicking up grass and dirt behind them. Milo had to focus on not thinking about the narrow viewpoint out the front windshield, and how they were almost entirely blind to everything around them as Henry sped the vehicle along.
[b "Oh god, we got out and he's going to kill us in this thing,"] Milo groaned, clenching his eyes shut to ward off the nausea building in his gut.
Adjusting his position, he tucked his head into Selene's shoulder to try and comfort himself with her familiar scent. Laurel cast a look into the backseat and nearly burst out laughing. [i "You get used to it,"] he turned back to face the front, a smile stretching across his face.
[b "Fuck you,"] Milo groaned into her shirt, unable to even glare at their friend.
[center Selene tightened her arms around him, her mind still reeling. They'd talked about escaping for so long, and despite her previous anxiety when they left, she was beyond ecstatic. Nothing could compare to the feeling of freedom. She just hoped she would be able to share it with her father one day. The man deserved it just as much as they did.]
[center With her feet back on the ground, she clung to Milo's arm, watching the two men. Her eyes widened at Henry's words. [i No way...] She couldn't believe that there were other cities out there. Her mind began to race, wondering if they'd suffered the same fate they had, and if so, who made sure it stayed that way. Surely there was someone higher than the council? She wasn't sure she actually wanted to know.]
[center On the other hand, if there were other cities, it was possible that there were people out there that [i weren't] stuck under a councils rule. That there were places free of a concrete wall. Her mind thought about all the possibilities, unable to process it all.]
[center Finally moving, she laced her fingers with his, glad they could actually share this moment together. That it had finally happened. While she'd never admit it, there had always been this small part of her that was scared that it would never happen, or that if it did, she wouldn't get to do it with her best friend by her side. She couldn't think of a more perfect way they could've seen the outside, even if there had been some bumps along the way.]
[center She looked at Milo when he spoke, smiling as he watched the sky. She couldn't remember a time when she'd seen look the way he did at that moment. She shook her head before looking up herself. [b "No, I can't. It feels like some crazy dream, even though I know it's not."] She squeezed his hand and let out a small sigh. [b "Who knew it was so beautiful?"] she said softly.]
[i Holy. Shit.]
Henry might not have thought much of it, but Milo couldn't stop staring. It was beautiful. For once in as long as he'd been alive, he could see the stars without the city's floodlights washing them out. It was like seeing reality for the first time. No concrete, no static from the speaker system, and no watchful eyes tracking you. Even the air smelled cleaner.
Milo laughed as he caught Selene, lifting her off the ground. [b "We're free,"] he buried his face in the crook of her neck.
Laurel watched the two longingly, knowing that it was not his place to celebrate with them. Not now, anyway. It was a punch to the gut, to be honest. He'd dreamt so long of showing them this world, to share in their excitement after years of listening to them talk about freedom. But now it the moment was soured by the tension hanging over them.
[b "How far do these fields go?"] Milo asked, losing sight of the land as it disappeared to shadows on the horizon.
[i "We don't know, exactly. We haven't gone far enough to explore everything thoroughly, to see what's still left after the war,"] Henry cleaned his glasses on the bottom corner of his shirt. [i "What we know for certain, is your city isn't the only of its kind. We've been tracking them all over, and they're all connected."]
It should have been obvious to him, thinking about it now, that they couldn't have possibly been the only settlement to survive the war. Milo's head swirled with momentary dizziness at the realization. [i There were more of them.] How many other lost souls were stuck in one of those prisons, longing for a way out?
[b "Can you show us? I want to see what you've found,"] Milo was desperate for more information.
Henry and Laurel exchanged a glance. [i "All of our documents and maps are kept secure at our base. Take the night to rest when we get there, and tomorrow morning I can show you everything we know,"] Henry assured them.
They set off on foot, and it took everything in him to not pester their new guide with questions. Milo felt like an excited child, eager to learn and pour over these new discoveries. He kept close to Selene, grateful to have her hand to hold, otherwise he was positive he'd drift away on the breeze with how light he felt.
[b "Can you believe this?"] he murmured to her, eyes drifting upwards to the stars once more.
[center No matter what, Selene always found comfort in Milos' arms. Despite the extreme circumstances, this time was no exception. She buried her face in his chest, taking in the fact that he was real and he was still there with her.]
[center Though she had turned to face the men, she still kept her arms around Milo. She narrowed her eyes on him, shifting her attention to Laurel when he spoke. She nodded at Milos' words, feeling the same way he did. They'd already been lied to by Laurel about who he was. The last thing they needed was for him and his friend to toss her to the guards when given the chance.]
[center As they walked, she slid her hand into Milos' again, taking this time to relax some. The thought of Laurel betraying them hurt, but she wasn't sure if she put it past him or not. However, the fact that he had been planning something like this for so long... that was probably the only reason she was continuing to push forward with him.]
[center She squeezed his hand at Laurels' words, allowing the two of them to talk. She didn't like the idea of being apart of the resistance. She didn't know what Milo was thinking, but she wanted to run. To get as far away from everything as they could. When they got the chance, she would ask him about it. She had already decided that, whatever he chose, she would choose as well. She wasn't leaving his side for anything.]
[center Stepping outside, Selene's eyes widened. A small gasp escaped her lips. [b "No way,"] she whispered, unable to look away. She'd always seen pictures in the books she'd managed to sneak away, but actually seeing it was a feeling she couldn't describe. She turned to Milo, smiling a real smile for the first time since they'd left. [b "Oh my God, we did it!"] she said, throwing her arms around him.]
Milo had allowed the stranger to help him up but he immediately retreated to the far wall once he was back on his feet. The man knew his name, and he didn't like it. If he was aware of who Milo was, then he also knew who his parents were. [i It's a trap], he thought to himself in a panic, worried he may have just given himself over as a hostage for negotiation.
The man - Henry - kept his distance, clearly picking up on the tension. [i "You're safe, I promise. We'll explain everything back at base."]
[b "Base? What base?"]
[i "Let's just wait for the others. I'd rather not have to explain multiple times."]
He didn't take his eyes off of Henry until he had his arms full of a panicked Selene. Henry at least had the decency to turn away from them to help Laurel through, giving them a small shred of privacy. [b "It's okay. You did it, just breathe. I'm so proud of you,"] he held her tight, running his hand up and down her back to try and soothe her.
He let her hug him as long as she needed to, only loosening his hold when she wanted to turn to look at the men across from them. [i "As I said to your friend here, my name is Henry Lochlan. I've been working alongside Laurel here, and Mary, to coordinate your escape. Pleasure to meet you both. But we're on a tight schedule here and you were a bit late so if you'll follow me, I'll explain along the way."]
For whatever reason, Laurel appeared calmer now that they were well-hidden. His features were smoothed out as if the last two hours hadn't occured. [i "Henry's one of the higher-ups in the resistence. You can trust him."]
[b "Trust isn't a word I'd use to describe my feelings towards either of you right now,"] Milo shot back.
To his credit, Henry only laughed. [i "We get that a lot. Come along, no time to waste."]
The cave wasn't as cramped as the passageway they'd crawled through, but they still had to walk slouched down to keep their heads from scraping the ceiling. Henry rattled on the entire route - detailing everything from the work the resistence was doing as well as how they get their ammunitions and supplies to keep them afloat. [i "Headquarters is technically an old underground military base that we've commandeered. It was abandoned for decades before we stumbled upon it. You can freshen up there, before we debrief you."]
Milo slowed his walk until he was beside Laurel. [b "Why give us a backpack of food and coal if we're being taken to some base?"]
Laurel continued looking straight ahead. [i "Because I wanted you to be prepared, in case you still wanted to run. No one is going to force you to stay with us. I'm in this fight whether or not the two of you want to be. All we're asking is that you hear us out. If, after everything they tell you, you still want to run off to the great unknown, take the bag and go."]
He made it sound like a war was on the horizon. If it came down to being a resistence ally, Milo wondered if he'd even be capable of killing in the name of this freedom.
After what felt like an hour, Henry led them out of the caverns into the fresh night air. It was unimpressive, as far as a view. Open fields spanning the horizon and dotted with woodlands. Overhead was a canvas of stars lighting up everything they could see. [i "Welcome to the outside,"] he stood back. [i "You're officially outside of the city walls."]
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