Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 39 Weakness

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Alex turning my way often enough that I'm sure he's developed a crick in his neck. It started out subtly at first, but over the course of days of walking through the forest had grown more obvious and more constant.

Do I look that tired? I inhale deeply as I plant a hand on the rough bark of a tree and put some of my weight on it before pushing off again. As hard as I've tried to hide it, I am exhausted and I need to rest longer than just sleeping over night in the middle of the forest. And those nights are probably cut short since Alex wakes me up at the first sign that the sun might be rising. Even in my sleep I'm walking, so it can hardly count as a rest.

"We are close," Alex says with another glance at me.

I look up at him just as he turns away, but I don't ask. Where ever we're going was only a few days walking distance from where we were the whole time. Something about that disturbs me. I'm no tribal tactician, but it doesn't seem right. All that time, and she was so close, yet he never bothered to save her on his own. Why in the world would he need me?

Alex stops me suddenly with one hand to my chest. A wind rustles the trees just as two people come into sight not too far away from us.

The boy looks younger than me but there is something about him that is off. At first I can't put my finger on it, but then his eyes, deep and dark, turn on us and I nearly dive behind Alex. Not cold, but steady. They're eyes far too old for his face, wise and sure. He looks at us the same way Aaron has looked at me, as if he were sizing up us both, and at the sight of Alex, his eyes harden.

Behind him there is a girl, my age, who clutches his hand and actually gives it a tug at the sight of us. Her eyes are huge in her delicate face, and the rest of her hardly looks like more than skin and bones. The clothes she wears are dirty, but not ratty. In fact both of them wear clothes that look newer than average though still a bit dirty.

I don't move. Alex doesn't move. The only one who is moving is the young girl who tugs on the boys hand and whispers, "Don't."

Her pleas alone aren't enough to move him. Alex quietly adds, "We mean no harm."

The boy looks at me and I catch his eyes for an instant before Alex steps between us and repeats himself.

"Michael," the girl says. "Please, let's just go."

There is a strange quiet right after she says it. Alex suddenly relaxes. He turns and wraps his arms around me. I catch a glimpse past him and see no one. The space where they once had stood is now empty and they are no where in sight. They haven't walked off as far as I can tell.

My hair stands up and I give a shiver. "What was that?"

He shakes his head. "I don't know. A bad sense. Someone powerful."

He must mean the boy because that was the one who was creeping me out. Another Experiment? The son of an Experiment? Something about the entire situation was not natural.

We don't stand around long. Alex pulls me forward through the spot they had been standing in and past it without stopping, not even to examine the scene.

It isn't far. The entrance to the place isn't more than a hole in the ground. Alex glances at me before taking my hand and leading me into it. I hesitate for a moment, and he stops, looking back at me and waiting for me to show that I want to continue. In that moment I catch his eyes and I can see something there that I can't place. Is it concern for me or is that the frown of a worried parent frightened for his child?

So I continue, following him down the old stone steps into the dark.

By the dim light of the setting sun, I can see plants growing in this small room as if it were a cave. Ivy grows up the wall out of a thick pile of dirt that covers the floor.

An old metal door is in front of us, and Alex raps on it with his knuckles. I wince as I imagine the pain to the thin skin of his knuckle pressed between metal and bone. Alex doesn't look at me. His jaw is set. He stares at the door, waiting for it to open.

The door is opened by a large man with dark skin and a friendly, if sharp, smile. "Alex. Welcome back." He notices me, and his smile disappears. "This is?"

"Brandon's weakness."

I look up at Alex sharply as his grip on my hand tightens. An eerie feeling creeps up my spine and I don't know whether to completely ignore it or bother with trying to rip my hand away from him.

The man looks back to Alex, probably seeing my indecision all over my face. A seriousness falls over all three of us. No smile. No words.

"C'mon." Is all the man says as he steps aside to let us in and we once again walk into a darkened tunnel lit only by a small oil lamp.

Next Chapter -->


  1. Ooohh, this chapter was definitely worth the wait. "Brandon's weakness" eh? Sounds like Paula has become bait, and I'm interested in seeing as to what purpose...

    Awesome chapter mate :)

  2. Oh how cool to see the stories meet up like this! And geeze, I'm glad they got out of that one, because Michael would have done a number on them! :o

    Brandon's weakness - so this man knows Brandon too then? Like Poida, that just didn't sit nicely with me. Is he going to trade her off for bait or something? Eeek!

    See, this is what worries me about this mission he's on - he has his own agendas, so I'm not fully convinced he's looking out for Paula's best interests :\

  3. You know, after everything they've been through, you can tell he does have feelings for her, but I guess they just aren't strong enough to prevent him from using her. I can sort of see why--he needs to get his kid back, after all--but this was definitely a shock.

    Interesting turning-point piece. Curious to see how all this turns out and if Alex ever redeems himself in Paula's eyes. Well done :)

  4. Oh man.

    I almost squealed when I saw Michael and Edith (but my husband would have looked at me strangely had I done it). So...if I have this straight, this was Michael and Edith three years it in the future of their present story or the past of it?. Which is scary, because according to your story index, they visited a particular place three years ago that is terrifying.

    It can't be that place, can it? If that's where Alex's daughter is (if he even has a daughter), then I wouldn't have much hope of what has become of her. But it's hard to believe Alex would do this to Paula for anything less. Because if she's where I think she is, then it's going to be really bad.

    What an amazing juxtaposition of "weaknesses"--Paula is Brandon's weakness, and there we see Michael being tugged along by his weakness, too.

  5. Just when I was beginning to get my usual "junkie twitch" from the lack of a new chapter.... ;)

    "Brandon's weakness?" Oh man, Alex. Oh man oh man oh man... This doesn't sound good for poor Paula. I swear I'm one of Alex's biggest fans, but at times like this...

    It's so nice to see Michael and Edith again! I startled my mother with the "OH SNAP!" I let out. I'm glad Edith pulled Michael away since things could have ended terribly.

  6. Oh my God no....where is the rest??? My brain is going crazy and my chest is tight!! Did he just? He is using her as bait? Say it isn't so!! After all that they've been through on this journey, this outcome is shocking!!

    I don't know what to think! Alex is unpredictable and I can never tell when he is doing something for their own good or for his own personal gain.

    That guy was happy to see him until he spotted Paula. Oh man I can't wait for the next chapter!

  7. I will be interested in seeing how this all plays out considering the secret image from the last chapter. Though I'm wondering if Alex was ever really working for Henri now. He is starting to come off as a spy. I can't really see Henri openly getting emotional about something like this, Brandon however.... And what happened with Stephan? Will he be coming back at some point? I do miss his dapper shoes XD. I wonder if Alex used his abilities to make Paula believe he had a daughter to be saved, and if the fellow he fought at the lab was all a ploy to begin with.

  8. Forget the creepy guy and scared girl - just what does Alex mean by, "Brandon's weakness."? Has he been playing our girl for a sucker all along?

    Hurry back here Lunar - me knees are weak from the need to know! lol

  9. All- I am such a cheater. This entry has quite a few clues. I'm a sneaky bastard. I should probably write these down for my typical after story post. Hehe.

    poida, oh yes. It's definitely a good questions. We will definitely get to that next week.

    Thank you!

    Laura, heehee, I thought for sure you'd be the one to catch it and then be the one to shout it in the comments because of a comment you made a while ago. I'm surprised you haven't, lol!

    Oh yes, his own agenda-- it's true. We'll see.

    Van, true. I do think he cares, but maybe it's just all business? I mean, it does involve his daughter, his first born.

    It's a good question, and I hope that I'll be able to tackle it later. If they all make it through okay.

    Rachel,LOL! So awesome! Sorry, I hadn't meant for it to be confusing. This is three years in the past from Michael and Edith's story. Here he's 13/14 and in the story I posted, he was 16/17. And yes, I think you've got it. You know where they're going.

    Oh hey... you know I didn't even think about the juxtaposition of weaknesses. :o Good catch!

  10. Nicole, lol! Don't worry, a chapter a week for the next month and a half. You know, I've been telling this ONE story for over a year now? Crap!

    Nope, it doesn't sound good at all.

    Also, LOL! Yeah, Edith to the rescue again, really. No, it wouldn't have gone well. Damn. Too early for April fools. "Michael rips them both apart. The end."

    Qui, I won't say anything. But I do think you've captured Paula's feelings even better than I did! She's probably thinking the exact same thing. He didn't warn her about this.

    Alex is rather unpredictable. It's part of why he's so sexy, but he's still trouble.

    I hope to reveal a little bit more about the guy. He's another clue for long time readers. *grin*

    Migy, lol, that was sneaky of me, wasn't it? Well now you know, so watch! XD

    Alex probably wasn't really working for Henri in a useful sense. So he might as well have been a spy.

    No, I can't see Henri getting emotional about anything. Brandon though probably would be pissed. And oh, Stephan. You'll probably see him again. His shoes were very dapper, lol.

    Haha, we'll see.

    Velvet, that is the most important question! Don't worry. We'll see next week! Dun dun dun!

  11. Oh my God, this was so good!

    I gasped when they came across Michael and Edith! For real!

    From Rachel: "Which is scary, because according to your story index, they visited a particular place three years ago that is terrifying. "

    Oh, I'd forgotten about that! I'm really worried about Alex's daughter now.

    Or is there even a daughter? Has this all been a big set-up? From where I'm sitting, it looks like Alex is about to sacrifice Paula for...what? I guess I have to wait to find out, lol!

  12. You know, these past few chapters, I've been starting to wonder about Paula's questin myself.

    Why hasn't Alex rescued his daughter sooner if he was so worried about her?

    And then the ending to this chapter - woah. Blew me away. The man that opened the door knows Alex. Now, i'm thinking, all along, Alex is either part of the group wanting to bring down Brandon and his family, he's actually a wildlander or he does have a daughter but in order to rescue her, he made a bargain, a life for a life.

    So damn intriguing. I am on the edge of my seat.

  13. Poor girl, although she knew from the time she woke up there that she was going to be used in some sense of the word. I suppose Alex could just be sacrificing Paula for his daughter. I don't understand why Alex would go to as much trouble as he has if that was the case.

    Truly frightening, and now I see things coming together.

  14. Carla, oh thank you! :)

    Heehee, I'm loving all these reactions to seeing Edith and Michael again. It was nice to see their sims. Michael is still pretty creepy, lol.

    Yeah, Rachel is on it, isn't she? Definitely a concern for Alex's daughter...

    .. if there is one. Thank you Carla!

    Carnaxa, it's a good question. I was wondering if anyone else was thinking about it too. It should be highly suspicious!

    Oh yes, that man at the end is a special one. We'll get to him next time.

    I can't wait to put out the rest of the chapters. I definitely have some work. This part is harder than all the rest of it put together, lol!

    SB, I'm glad you see some things coming together. Other things will be resolved soon. Quite soon too. Like wow, I can't believe how soon. :o

    Alex is definitely in a difficult place here.

  15. OMG "IF he even has a daughter"??? Well me and Paula both, because I was fooled, lol! Oh man, oh man, oh man!

    And yes, now I remember what comment I made before too! :(

    Where's Brandon when we need him? Can he read her thoughts from this far? She needs to think louder!

    How many more days until Friday? lol! :D

  16. You know, you picked up in one of my comments a few posts ago that I didn't "sound very proud of Alex at this moment".

    I think you can multiply that exponentially right now after reading the last scene!

    Although, to tempter that, knowing Alex (and you), this could be a trick within a trick so I'm determined to be stubborn and not take anything at face value until the whole story is concluded, and even then I think I'm still going to be sceptical!

    Either way, my concern from Paula has heightened considerably. Whatever Alex is doing or pretending to do, it's dangerous and he knows it and I'm wondering if he was having second thoughts about involving Paula during the walk to get to this place.

    The way Paula described how he was looking at her, my first thought wasn't "he's making sure she doesn't run for it", it was more along the lines of making sure she was okay. You can't really fake that. Also there was the way he wrapped his arms around her when Michael appeared, that was a personal gesture, not just a "protecting my investment" gesture, which is why I'm now thinking this is a trick within a trick.

  17. Sorry it took me so long to comment! We've had a guest here and my sleep has been a little disturbed. -_-

    Laura, LMAO at the "she needs to think harder!" I know! I actually thought that too.

    Judi, heehee a trick within a trick? Me? Do that? :D

    You're right though. Whatever Alex is doing it is dangerous, and he does know it.

    Oh yes, exactly. That's what I see too. Ah that makes me excited that you pulled that from the text and his actions. Yes, I think it too. Paula's tired by now, and cranky herself, but Alex's actions speak on their own!

    Thank you for commenting! Sorry again it took so long to get back here.

  18. There's more to Alex than you'd think, I still have hopes for him, he has some plan that will keep them all out of too much harm... that's my wish anyway.

    I loved seeing Michael and Edith, someone powerful indeed.

    It's probably because it's taken me so long to get back into reading stories that, but I feel like they've been walking for such a long time and when Paula points out that it's really very close to where they started out, well, it makes me wonder too. Are they actually there yet?

  19. Willow Weeds, yes, there is more to Alex than you'd think sometimes.

    Hehe, I've been planning to see Michael and Edith for a while. It was nice to see their sims again.

    It does feel like they've been walking a long time. Probably a couple of days at least. Still, it's within walking distance, which is what surprises Paula I think.

  20. Hey, I made it to the 'R's in my 'catch up' reading in google reader~ Oh man, Can I say I am feckin' confused about Alex and his motives? A part of me hopes Alex is not using Paula like this, a piece of cheese in a mousetrap. That something will be revealed to make him less cold.

    Oooo, Edith and Michael, and mystery man in last panel? *thud* Yow.

    I am so looking forward to getting back into this! Read more tomorrow~

  21. Drew, hehe, well I think it's good actually if Alex's motives confuse you at this point. Unless it makes it so that you don't want to read on. That would be bad. D:

    But Alex is being very mum about what's going on exactly, and Paula just has to follow along, hopefully with some trust in Alex, but most likely she's only doing it because she agreed to it.

    Also, :D Just the reaction I wanted for this piece.

    (And funny you commented on my entry while I was reading through yours, lol.)