[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]
It was controlled chaos around us as she dragged me along to the tunnel’s entrance. She had no way to know that I had zero intentions of going below, especially at that point. I stuck close, not wanting to tip her off to what I was planning.
I could hear my uncle shouting something from near the gates. We were maybe a dozen yards from the tunnel entrance we were heading toward, and I nudged Kailey gently. She startled, turning to me, blinking rapidly.
“What is it?”
I gestured toward the sound of her father’s voice. “You’d better get going. I’m sure he didn’t expect that it’d take as long as it did to convince me. Whatever’s going to happen, I think it’s going to be starting pretty quick here and you’ll want to be near him when it does, if that’s what he’s planning to have happen, anyway.”
“But I’m supposed to—”
I pointed ahead of us with a wince. “The tunnel’s right there. Where the hell else am I going to go? Like you said, there’s not anywhere else that’s safe if someone’s about to attack us, and you’re right, I’m in no condition to fight or anything like that right now. Go. I’ll be okay.”
She hesitated, biting down hard on her lower lip. “Stay down there until the all-clear’s called, okay? They’re really worried about you.” Her voice cracked a little. “I’m really worried about you.”
“I know,” I said quietly, stomach twisting. I pecked her on the cheek and nudged her slightly. “Go. Be careful.”
After another hesitation, she nodded, turning away and taking off at a jog toward the sound of her father’s voice, which had come from the direction of the gates.
I took a slow, deep breath, then continued on toward the tunnel’s entrance, just in case she looked back to make sure I’d gone in that direction. I knew her too well—she’d look back and check. I saw the motion of it from the corner of my eye after I’d gone another dozen steps, and then she moved out of my sight—and I moved out of hers.
Once I reached the tunnel’s entrance, I changed direction. The noise was getting quieter, the number of people rushing a round dropping to a trickle—the last few headed to the tunnels, the last few headed to the wall.
Steeling myself and hoping no one thought to ask any awkward questions, I turned and slowly, slowly headed for the wall.