GuiltMature

Cut, now, to a scene just three miles away, though it would take far longer to walk there through the twisting tunnels than you would have imagined. Mathew and Geoff were sitting on a battered old sofa, neither speaking, staring at the carpet as though it held some answers.

At last, Mathew broke the silence. "We should go back for her..."

Geoff cut him off. "We can't, Matt. We don't know where she is. of course, she could be in the house, but on the whole I rather think not. She could be anywhere by now. She might be dead, for all we know - what good would it do to anybody if we got ourselves killed trying to rescue someone who isn't there?"

Matthew knew it was true. Didn't mean he liked it. Didn't mean he'd give up that easily. "I feel so responsible. I got her into this. If she's dead, it's all my fault."

Geoff nodded sympathetically. "I know it's hard. But she's got ... I mean, she'll be all right. They won't have hurt her yet, I'm sure."

"She didn't even know we were Rez!" That was what everyone called the resistance. It started with a few members, but over time the contraction had become pretty much universal. "She thought it was all just a game, never knew it was dangerous..."

"No, she knew," Geoff told him. He deserved to know. "I told her."

"You did? When was that?"

"Half an hour, an hour before we left? She'd been eavesdropping on her parents having an argument and they'd mentioned that we knew why the adults lie about the music and that. And they said something about us. Of course, she had to find out what it was. I never got to finish my story, though. I'll tell her everything some day..."

"You think she's still alive?" Mathew felt hope returning. Geoff was known to be an utter pessimist inside, but if even he thought there was some chance...

"If she has done what I told her, then yes," he said, but refused to elaborate further.

For a long while they sat there, each lost in their morbid thoughts. Each felt equally to blame for the capture of Elena. Each knew that they could have done more to stop it. But it was Geoff that thought of the innocent, frightened girl and wondered what his advice would have done to her. Would it help? He had the feeling it might have had the opposite effect.

"I shouldn't have said that," he whispered to the world in general, and Mathew surfaced from his own misery for long enough to stare at him.

"Said what?" But he turned away when it became obvious that the older boy would say no more, and they sat together for several minutes.

If he hadn't told her that, she might have got out of there. Or at least they would have killed her quickly, when they realised she didn't know anything. But now she would be nothing but their toy, a little figure on a music box, not someone that felt pain. She would collapse ... she could not endure. Oh, how had he let this happen to her? How had he been so stupid?

Another few minutes passed. "She'll be alive," said Geoff eventually, this time aloud. His voice was hoarse. "She has to be alive, Mathew, she has to be. Tell me she's still alive."

Mathew didn't comment.

The End

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