Makara held her breath as footsteps piled into the basement. She couldn’t count how many there were because they just kept coming. After half a minute or so, the noise ceased, and she could hear the labored breathing of what was most likely a dozen or so men.
She wasn’t brave enough, or stupid enough, to raise her head above the boxes to get a more accurate count.
“Search it,” the man said.
At once, the thuds of boots spread in every direction. They would reach Makara and Samuel’s position within half a minute.
“We’ve got to move,” Samuel whispered.
Makara felt him pull on her hand, and they retreated to the deeper darkness of the basement. They followed narrow lanes, and Makara nearly knocked over a high stack of boxes as they took a sharp turn. She bit her lip as they walked through yet more spider webs. For as long she had been alive, she had hated those disgusting arachnids.
She chanced a look behind to see several shadows searching several rows down. Two beams of light cut through the shadowy labyrinth; Samuel pulled her to the ground just in time to miss the crisscrossing lights.
They reached the far corner of the basement, Makara fighting to not sneeze at the thick smell of must.
“Up that,” Samuel said, so quietly Makara could hardly hear him.
He was pointing to a line of shelves on their right, all of which were filled with miscellaneous items; tools, motors, plastic containers, metal boxes, tarps, lamps, piles of musty clothes, along with various knickknacks such as figurines, clocks, cords, and old computer towers. The Angels collected any sort of junk they could find as long as it was in good condition, because there was no telling what could be scrounged and pieced together. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the sorting, or more accurately, lack of sorting, which usually meant these items had been down here for years, untouched, evidenced by the thick dust coating them.
Samuel boosted her up to the first shelf, and followed soon after. The thudding of boots was getting closer. Makara reached up, barely able to touch the next shelf with her fingertips. Samuel boosted her up to that one as well.
By the time Samuel was boosting her up to the next shelf, two men rounded the corner, one bearing a flashlight. Instantly, it found Samuel, who pushed Makara forward on the shelf, so as to hide her from view. Makara almost cried out in the following cacophony of junk that rained down from the shelf above, even as Samuel turned to the men and raised his hands.
“Over here!” the man shouted.
The men in the basement all converged on the source of the voice. Samuel did not look at Makara, who was now hidden, not wanting to do anything to give her away.
Tears came to Makara’s eyes. “No…”
Samuel’s face tensed, a clear indication that he wanted Makara to be quiet.
“It’s just a kid, Raine,” the man with the flashlight said. “I don’t think they’re Reapers down here.”
Makara felt her heart jolt at that voice.
A moment later, Raine’s voice called out. “Samuel?”
“Where’s your sister?”
“I’m here!” Makara crawled toward the shelf’s precipice, and together, the siblings scrambled down.
* * *
Raine ran forward, helping Makara down first, and then Samuel.
“Where’s Clara?” he asked.
Makara held tightly to Raine, reaching her arms around his neck. “She died, Raine. They busted in and got her.”
He nodded. “I’d feared that. I’m glad you’re both okay, though.”
“They’re still up there,” Samuel said. “We had to hide down here.”
“Good thing I found you both,” he said. “You’ve been here a long time?”
Samuel shook his head. “No. We just got here.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
Makara and Samuel followed him in silence – a silence Makara was soon to break.
“Raine…will everything be okay?”
Raine reached down and touched her shoulder as they walked. “We’ve almost got the building back. There’s just a few left inside.”
“What now?” Samuel asked.
Raine paused, looking back at his men. “I want all of you to make sure they stay safe, and the basement needs to be secured. We got too much down here to risk losing anything.”
“Where are you going?” Makara asked.
“Upside. I need to make sure everything’s getting mopped up. Stay here.” Thinking, he then added, “and be good.”
Raine ran upstairs, back into the ruin of HQ.