"Little boy, are you alright?" Abellona asked once more, sitting on the back of her heels as she knelt next to Jackson, reaching out and touching his shoulder with her gloved hand.
The young boy looked up, crying in a hoarse voice; his wound had reopened, blood trickling down his hair, "Please!! Help my grandma!!" He threw his hand out, pointing to the alleyway.
Abellona turned her head, staring down the alleyway the child pointed toward; her eyes lit up as she furrowed her brow as she watched the embers of the once blazing inferno that had engulfed the narrow path.
"Im sorry, child. There is no one alive down that way." She said in a soothing voice, returning her gaze to Jackson with a faint smile. She extended her arm behind her, snapping her fingers before a young woman wearing the Hellfire Angels uniform.
"Siora, take this young child to the rest of the survivors. His grandmother seems to have been killed down that alleyway." She said in a directive tone, standing as she adjusted her dress and coat before briskly walking away.
Siora smiled softly, leaning forward as she offered her hand to Jackson, helping him to his feet, "Im Siora. Whats your name?" She asked, wrapping her arm around the boy who stood a head above her waist and walking him towards the center of Duskgate.
"Jackson..." He replied weakly, wiping his face with his wrist, smearing the soot on his cheeks.
"Im sorry for your loss, Jackson... I mean that! Who did you lose?" She asked, reaching into the bag slung across her shoulder and pulling out a small rag and kneeling in front of him, and cleaning off his face, "There! Good as new!"
"M-m-my g-g-gra-grandma-ma-ma!" Jackson exclaimed as he began crying, wrapping his arm around Sioras waist, sobbing uncontrollably.
Siora sighed as she rubbed his back consolingly, holding him tightly, "I know, sweetie... I know..." She said, shushing him softly.
"Come on; we should get you checked out; lets head over to those tents over there." She said, pointing to one of the four central plazas around Gods Tower, where emergency tents had been set up for the injured.
The Climbers Association was created by those slaves thrown into Gods Tower, where they gathered and banded together. After breaking the warlords vice-grip on Terra, The Climbers Association quickly became the sole power on the planet, controlling everything and everyone.
Food, safety, and, most importantly of all, hope for survival had been provided by The Climbers Association, accepting and even approving of the regime that had instilled itself across the world. After long enough, it had simply become everyday life.
Siora guided Jackson to one of the empty cots and gently laid him down, "Just relax, and someone will be with you as soon as they can; I will go look for your grandmother, alright?" She asked with a smile as the young boy nodded, wiping the tears that had begun budding in his eyes once again as he turned over to face the tent.
She quickly turned and ran down the street, turning down the alleyway, and searched everywhere but could not locate any bodies. She chewed on the inside of her mouth as she scratched her head, looking around.
Jackson awoke hours later in the dead of night. Half of his head had been covered in bandages, his left arm, his right leg, and both feet. He sat up and looked around the tent at the inhabitants of the nearby cots.
A few torches illuminated the tent as he quickly threw his shorts and tunic on over his bandages and walked toward the exit, stopping as he reached for the flap and heard two people speaking outside.
"Everyone has been accounted for, Zander. The nearby lair of The Void Eyes was located and expunged following the rescue of all hostages."
"Good; tell Amihan I appreciate their assistance in taking care of this."
"There was... one abnormality, however..."
"The Warden is missing. We collected her grandson, but we could not locate her. My subordinate explained that the boy said she was killed, but her body could not be located."
"Could it have been destroyed in the explosion?"
"Its a possibility, but..."
"Then thats what happened. The Climbers Association will appoint a new Warden. Whats the problem?"
"You know exactly what the problem is, Z... The suits don simply appoint the Warden! Its passed down from generation to generation!"
"There isn any evidence of Kriges death, and he may still be alive out there, ya know?"
"I didn think you believed in those rumors..."
"I don , but Shayla did, and now shes missing. Somethings going on here..."
"Then whats the point in telling The Climbers Association?"
"None of your business, Abellona; you did well today. I appreciate your help."
"Sure, Z... Anytime..."
Jackson opened the tent, peeking out as he watched Zander walk away from Abellona, who had a conflicted expression on her face. After a moment, she turned around, walking in the opposite direction.
He poked his head out, looking around before exiting the tent and rushing down the main street toward the alleyway. The destruction from before was still wholly present, but the pandemonium and heat and smoke from the flames were nonexistent.
Nothing remained of the building nor its contents. A small hatch frame was busted open as Jackson stared down at the ladder leading to the darkness.
She has to be down there! He thought to himself as he quickly climbed into the trapdoor and climbed the ladder. His bandaged foot touched the cold, damp stone; he turned and looked down the long passageway of complete darkness.
His heart started to race as he gritted his teeth together, balling his hands into fists, doing everything to psych himself up and muster the courage to take a step.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, recalling the words of his missing grandmother, Calm yourself and think with reason!
He opened his eyes, filled with renewed vigor as he began running down the secret tunnel. After what felt like a lifetime of running, Jackson came across a wooden door with a metal latch attached to a stone doorframe.
He reached out, grabbing the door handle, when suddenly a hand covered his mouth and another wrapped around his body as a hushed voice seethed from behind, "Don say a word!"