"Shut her up!" a woman's voice hissed from the descending gloom. 

Blue balls of flame flared into existence, drifting slowly above upturned palms. Above the fireballs, Rob's faced flickered in the dancing light. Grace quieted as she recognized the calm look in his eye. Casually, Rob tossed the fireballs into the air, where they drifted to opposite ends of the trailer to float above everyone's heads, casting the room in eerie flickering blue light.

Jesse's reached over and turned off the knocked over flashlight. Grace's eyes began searching the group for the one person that would make her living nightmare disappear. Her shoulders slumped in dismay as she recognized Gail, Rob, Josh, Beth, Angel, Rick, and Chase. Steve wasn't with them

Jesse asked the question that was on her mind as the others collapsed to their mats and Gail claimed the couch, "Where's Steve?" 

Gail looked up resting her head on her arm propped on the one arm rest, "Probably captured. One moment he was there, the next he wasn't."

"And you didn't look for him?" Grace exploded, lunging for where Gail was quiescent.

Gail's eyes flicked to Grace and she froze mid-stride, stopped by Gail's powerful telekinetic gaze. "We did look for him," she began slowly, "We looked for him for four hours, as long as we dared, Tracker-style. There was no sign of him. That's why we're so late getting home."

Grace glared at her, still frozen by Gail's control, "Well you didn't look hard enough then."

Gail glared at her, wanting to pound the little twerp who was barely half her age, "Well then why don't you use that nosy ability of yours to find him. That should be easy enough for you, little Miss Lovebird."

Grace broke out in a fresh round of tears. Jesse answered for his emotional sister, "She tried. She could find all of you, but not him."

"Well that makes nione of us then," Gail said, her voice taking on the business tone that implied a hefty descion was about to be anounced, "He's gone. And not coming back. For all we know, the Trackers caught him and are bringing him to The Company as we speak. They won't waste anytime turning him to their side. This place is compromised. We're leaving at dawn- or earlier, depending on how soon we can find a new place. Steven is to be considere one of Them now, and any contact with him could get us killed, or worse caught."

Jesse threw an arm around his sister as he made eye contact with Gail. Their gazes met briefly, but that was all that was necessary for Jesse to tell Gail the whole story. She was the only other person who knew what Grace meant when she said "The Nightmare Man", since when they had first run into each other, Grace had been having nightmares that even Gail could pick up on. Gail nodded once, then raised her voice, "Now, I've been on a raid all day and am famished! I believe it's Jesse's turn to cook?" she raised a questioning eyebrow at Jesse, at which everyone else laughed. It was always Jesse' turn to cook, he was the only one who knew enough to not give the  rest food poisoning. "So get on it" she finished before lying down on the couch to fall asleep.

Jesse nodded to her back. Peace made, he turned his attention to the results of raiding the busy Thursday market. They'd have to chew through the perishables, which meant a super feast day to ease up on the load they would have to take to wherever they were going the next day. Josh, Rob, Beth, Angel, Chase, and Rick all headed outside to kill time in the abandoned warehouse where the tractor trailer was stored along with a bunch of others in lines for the winter. Jesse could hear them laughing like hooligans as they ran around,  Chase yelling, "You're dead, Josh! You hear me? Dead!" They needed to release the nerves they had collected over the day from  the intenseness of being out in the public and risking their lives for food.

From the couch, Jesse could hear soft snores. Gail would rest now, and after supepr take someone with her to find a new place. Gail was their leader, it was never hailed that way, but everyone knew it and no one questioned it. Gail hadn't been caught since she had run off well over ten years now, and had no intention of becoming complacent.

Grace knelt beside him, sorting canned beans from corn. Jesse allowed his conciouness to extend the barriers of his brain and drift out like tentacles. where his sister sat, he got nothing- she still wasn't thinking to him. Jesse focused on the others outside the trailer, to try to find out somethin that Gail didn't say out loud.

The first person he "ran into" was Josh, who was fazing to avoid a flip kick from Chase as they engaged in another bout in their series of hand-to-hand combat. the kick passed right through Josh's ghostly body, knocking Chase off balance. Josh was too slow to take advantge though, and the battle continued. Josh was the only one willing out of the group to fight Chase, the others were sick of fresh bruises and broken bones.

A sob emanated from beside him. Jesse pulled himself back into his head and tossed an arm around Grace, who was sniffling quietly. Gail had said that Steve was as good as dead, that he was the enemy now. It had crushed his sister- a fourteen year-old could only take so much. He pulled her close, demons battling within himself, debating whether or not to tell her. He looked down at her timy frame with Black curls and innocent blue eyes that had witnessed too much. The descision was made.

"Hey," he whispered, nudging her, "Can I tell you a secret?"

Still snifling, Grace nodded emphatically. Jesse glanced over his shoulder to where Gail slept, still snoring quietly. Gently, he reached out to her mind, and felt around. Her thoughts were in a jumbled mess, she was fast asleep. Jesse turned back to his sister, "If I'm with someone long enough, i develop strong mental ties with them so that I can sense their emotions if they spike. It's kind of a reversal of when you can tell when I'm in your head."

"So what?" Grace whispered back, her breathing evening out as she dared to hope again.

Jesse looked into her trusting blue eyes, feeling terrible for what she was going through. He took a deep breath, "If anything happened to Steven, since we've been with him for a while, I'd be able to sense something and know it was him. He's alive, and I don't think the trackers got him. Steve isn't the kind of kid to go down without a fight, especially knowing you were waiting for you. I'd feel something."

It took a few seconds for the news to sink in, but once it did, Grace squealed with delight at what he was implying as she hugged her older brother.

"SHHHH!" he hissed as he hugged her back. They both glanced over to Gail, who hated being woken up from a nap unnecesarily. Slowly, she stirred, shifting position on the couch. She muttered quietly in her sleep.  A few seconds later, the quiet snores resumed.

"He's alive?" Grace whispered excitedly, "Are you sure, Jess?"

without swallowing, Jesse nodded, "I would have sensed it if it were otherwise."

Grace hugged her brother again with wild enthusiasm. Gently, Jesse probed her mind, Grace was too happy to care as she chanted to herself, "He's alive. He's alive. Steven's alive."

Feeling her happiness, Jesse felt only the tiniest bit guilty about lying to his sister to raise her hopes.

The End

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