Emily took a couple of steps backwards, eyes widening in shock and terror. The man in front of her, the man who went by Alejandro here, was like a ghost to her.
"Emily, it's really me. Please, sit down," Alejandro, or David, or whoever he was, stepped forward, trying to calm Emily.
"No, no, no. You can't be real. Who are you? David died. I went to the funeral. What is going on?" Emily reached the bottom stair of the staircase and tripped backwards. Josiah rushed to her side to help her up.
"Emily. I can explain everything. Just come, sit down first," Alejandro pleaded. He placed a hand on her shoulder, which she angrily swatted away.
Sarah was as confused as anyone by the situation, but her current physical condition made her less patient with Emily's shock.
"Can we just sit down and see what he has to say?" Sarah interrupted, "I know this is hard for you, Emily, but we're stuck here anyway. So please, just listen to the man."
Emily glared at Sarah, but eventually nodded and let Josiah walk her to one of the rectangular tables which had chairs lined around it. Alejandro waved his guards away, waited for everyone to be seated, and took a seat.
"First of all, can I get anyone some fresh water, or something to eat?" Alejandro began, "No one? Alright then. My name is David Alejandro Gutierrez. Here, I go by Alejandro, but I went by David for most of my life. I was born in the vault about fifty-seven years ago, and lived for many quiet and uneventful years as an agricultural technician, working to maintain and improve the underground farms. About twenty years ago, I got too curious about a discrepancy in our output, and when I asked too many people too many questions, I was abducted from my home compartment. When I woke up, I was on the surface, lost and confused."
Sarah shook her head, "How did you survive? How did you make it here? When we surfaced, there were soldiers trying to kill us."
"I got really lucky. No one was around when I came to, so I just ran as far and as long as I could, through the ruins above the vault. The perimeter of the ruins was fenced off, so I snuck along the fence-line until I found the exit, which was being guarded by three soldiers. More soldiers came and went, heading into the heart of the ruins. I knew they were looking for me, so I just waited in the attic of a scorched house until it was dark, and planned to sneak out when the guard shift changed. But the shift never changed. I waited all night, and the same three soldiers stayed there as soldiers returned from their search.
"It looked like I was going to be stuck there when an explosion rocked the guard shack. A group of people rushed the guards, killing them. I decided to run for it before any more guards showed up, hoping these new people would be less inclined to kill me. That's how I found the resistance group—called themselves the Children of Liberty."
"So, that's who all these people are?" Josiah asked, looking at the men and women around the room. Alejandro nodded.
Sarah had a lingering question still, "Sorry, one thing. You haven't said how you and Emily know each other."
Alejandro took a sharp breath, but didn't say anything. He and Emily just exchanged a very uncomfortable gaze.
Emily broke the silence, "We were engaged to be married."
Josiah looked stunned, "How have you never told me you were engaged? There really is a lady underneath that rough exterior!"
"Yes, once. And after I thought he died, it broke something in me. That's why I'm not happy to see David—Alejandro—whatever you name is now. You ruined me," Emily stood up and walked across the room.
Alejandro looked down to the cold floor, "I never thought I would see her again. For years I hoped somehow I would return to the vault, but eventually I came to learn that would never happen."
Sarah changed the subject, "So I hate to interrupt your reverie, but I could really use some rest. We walked for a very long time, and I took a couple bullets just a couple days ago."
"Of course, how rude of me. Jamal, please escort our guests to one of the safe houses," Alejandro stood, waving an ebony-skinned man over to them, "This is Jamal, one of my most trusted advisors. Go, get all the rest you need. We have much to discuss when you are ready."
Corporal Tennenbaum stormed through the refugee camp, fueled by the disappointment of missing his promotion. Private Lisbon had been following leads about the whereabouts of Sarah Laughlin's family, and along the way, he had learned that someone saw a tall, broad-shouldered bearded man carrying a female matching Laughlin's description out of the training zone. While Lisbon continued to track down the girl's family, Tennenbaum asked around about the bearded man. He had been walking from tent to tent all day and all through the night, playing nice with the sewer-dwellers, and finally found someone who identified the man as Josiah Barnes, a doctor or nurse or something. Another vault refugee noted that Barnes had been seen with a Dr. Emily Bronski.
But none of that was what had made Tennenbaum so furious. No, that happened when Tennenbaum figured out that Bronski, Barnes, and Laughlin were all nowhere to be found. Approximately 115 survivors from the vault, and none of them had any idea where the doctors went with the girl. What was worse was that the soldiers stationed around the camp also had no idea where they had gone.
"So you mean to tell me that you lost two civilian doctors and an injured girl? I have specific orders to take that girl to base for medical attention, and you lost her? Your commanding officer will hear about this, I promise you that," Tennenbaum raged at the soldiers in front of him.
"Corporal, we looked for the girl, but we didn't find her anwhere," one of the soldiers answered.
Another soldier added, "There's no telling if she even made it to the camp, Corporal. She could have died before Barnes even got her out of the training zone."
Tennenbaum shook his head impatiently, "No. She was here. She had to be. Now are you certain none of you saw Bronski and Barnes take her out of the camp?"
"Well, none of us did. But Private Jacobs was on duty the last few nights. He's back at base now, I believe. Off for the day."
"Get him on the comms, now."
One of the soldiers took out her communicator and entered an access code, "This is Private Cortez. I have Corporal Tennenbaum here, requesting to speak with Private Jacobs."
The operator's voice came over the communicator, "Private Cortez, give me a moment to patch him through."
The comm was silent for a minute, then a groggy voice said, "This is Private Jacobs."
Tennenbaum snatched the communicator from Cortez, "Private, this is Corporal Tennenbaum. I need you to think very hard and tell me if you saw a large, bearded man and a middle-aged blonde woman leave the camp either of the last two nights."
Jacobs thought for a moment, "Yes, Corporal, I believe they left camp at the end of my shift to dispose of a corpse. I—"
"That will be all, thank you Private."
Tennenbaum tossed the communicator back to Private Cortez and walked off toward the main gate of the camp. Now he had a general direction.