Deep inside an abandoned gold mine, Phil forced his mind away from the pain in his body caused by long hours spent chained to the cavern wall by his arms. Years of separating gold from rock had left rough walled, hollowed out alcoves their captors had put to good use as small cells. Some, like the one he occupied, were open to the center of the cave, while others had bars sunk into the ceiling and floors, allowing the occupants to move about more instead of being physically restrained. As the first Star Guide to enjoy the hospitality of this dubious establishment, Phil had been denied one of the more comfortable accommodations. On the plus side, no source of groundwater existed here in the middle of the California desert a few miles from the town of Adamsville; a fact for which Phil was secretly grateful. It meant his temporary home was dryer than many caves and a good deal warmer.
Although he had discovered the impossibility of sensing anything outside of the mine, he was still able to maintain a connection with his wife, Barbara, as well as several others from their old community who had joined him as involuntary guests over the last couple of weeks. As near as he could tell, all were doing their best to keep their fears tamped down, instead, pooling the few resources they currently had at their disposal to learn as much as they could about their captors. They all knew the timing of their escape was crucial, and required information from the outside before they could devise an effective plan. Their hoard of information was growing slowly, aided in part by the addition of new captives, and supplemented by what little they were able to glean from the minds of their guards.
Concern for his daughter was uppermost in his mind. He knew her classmates’ unprovoked cruelty had forced her to hide her typically social self inside a hard shell, and her loneliness grew deeper every day. He regretted involving her in the move though he and his wife agreed the reason it was necessary could not yet be divulged. He couldn’t be certain, but he believed those who were behind the anomalies he and Barbara had discovered were trying to divert the Star Guides’ attention by making their child miserable enough to convince the family to leave. He couldn’t suppress a half smile at how the abduction of Sasha’s parents earned their captors exactly the outcome they desired; Sasha and her family had left Adamsville. But instead of allowing them to continue to operate unmolested, they’d attracted the attention of more Star Guides intent on uncovering their purpose in taking over the town.
Even knowing they were doing what was best, he couldn’t help blaming himself for turning Sasha’s life upside down when he should have been protecting her. They could have left her with Mariel and her parents while he and Barbara figured out who was using this area as a base of operations but it would have required too many explanations. Not knowing who was behind the disturbances, they couldn’t risk alerting them any more than moving the entire family already had. Getting the information they needed would have bordered on impossible if those people had withdrawn the energetic anomalies too quickly. He certainly didn’t need the Council with their outmoded ideas and ostrich-like tendencies getting wind of the reason behind their sudden move. Until he had an idea of what had caused the energy vacuum he and Barbara discovered while scouting new camping sites, it was better to keep the number of people in the loop to an absolute minimum.
He hadn’t even confided in his best friend, Karl. He’d known nothing about the reason for the sudden move until he involuntarily joined Phil and Barbara in the mine. Like Sasha and Mariel, Phil and Karl had been an integral part of each other’s lives since birth. At times, it seemed like their brains were hard-wired together. He felt Karl’s frustration course through his own immobilized limbs as his friend paced his cell like a caged lion. Karl was a man who loved being in motion but the four-foot rock and iron enclosure allowed the legs which made up most of his rail thin, 6 foot 4 frame barely two paces, frustrating rather than satisfying his need for constant movement. The thick mop of tawny hair, always in need of a trim stuck out from his head in all directions thanks to hours of dragging his fingers through it while he paced, and accentuated his leonine appearance.
Phil shared his thoughts, hoping to distract Karl and slow his pacing.
“I hope Tess got the emergency instructions I left. I asked her to get Sasha to safety if the Council lost track of me and Barb. I just wish I’d had the sense to ignore that bunch of baboons when they issued the edict to put off training our kids.” The relaxation in his own limbs made him grateful he’d decided to include Karl in his mental meanderings.
Karl stood still in the center of his cell with his head cocked to the side, considering Phil’s words. “Knowing Tess, she’s not only gotten Sasha and Mariel out of Adamsville by now…” Karl began.
“Excuse me? What do you mean, ‘and Mariel’&rdqu...