I considered charging down there. Not to beat Guyamo, but to rescue them. I dismissed the idea. The gas gun was all I had to rely on, and I wasn't sure how effective it would be. It had confused the Darkles, probably blinded them, but they hadn't seemed particularly incapacitated. I knew I wouldn't be able to see or breathe once I was in it. I wasn't sure blinding Guyamo would help, either. He hadn't aimed the staff, merely raised it, which suggested he wouldn't need to see me to let another of those pulses fly. I wasn't fooling myself into thinking I could withstand one up close any better than CAP or Cassanee had. Of course, Guyamo hadn't been affected, so he did direct the energy away from himself, somehow. Which suggested the safest place to be was in close proximity to him.
But that was at cross-purposes with the whole "get your friends out of there" part of the plan. So I slid back into the shadows quietly as I could while Cass and CAP were hauled past the wooden doors of the fort.
Once I felt I was a safe distance away, I turned my headlamp back on and tried to retrace the route we'd taken to get here. As I did so, I reflected on the fact that the situation hadn't changed from where it was earlier this afternoon: We needed more help. Guyamo was using all the negative energy the surrounding area had stored up as a weapon. He'd built an army from it. The actual people were either captured, or in work gangs too worn down to help. What was left, besides psychic impressions of everyone's worst experiences here?
I kept walking. The trail seemed to have vanished, which was unlikely considering how I'd been crashing through the brush trying to keep up. At the same time, whatever trail I was leaving now also seemed to be swallowed up behind me, which ought to keep anyone from tracking me, assuming they were trying. I mused that at least Site 9 doesn't play favorites. I found a trail that looked familiar, and shortly reached the spot my furry friend and I had first stumbled on the Darkles. Continuing what is supposedly north I ran into another version of myself, one that realized just how badly the truck was really messed up. I stopped long enough to tell him it would be OK, but I don't think he believed me. Perhaps he wasn't capable of it, or I'm just not convincing.
The night drug on. I found the other ghost me freaking out at its ghost truck, and the battered trailer. Noises came from the woods on either side, low murmurs and calls I didn't recognize, nor did I wish to investigate. At one point, I spied a weak glow down in a gully, and peering down, observed a horse staggering slowly, then simply lying down. After a few moments, its chest stopped rising and falling in rhythm, and the glow faded. Before it was gone entirely, I thought I glimpsed the bones of other horses all around it, but maybe I was mistaken. I'd never seen the horses on my site glow like that, but none of them had a pointy deformity on their foreheads, either. Part of me did want to investigate that, but another part felt like I'd seen something I wasn't supposed to, a private affair, and I hurried on, muttering, 'Site 9 is. . . the Unicorn Graveyard!'
I was nearing the gate, just one more ridge. Once there, it was just a matter of climbing over and I'd be out. Then I could find help, and not the kind that was going to place me under observation. I slowed as that sank in. The whole thing sounds wild, and I'd never noticed any of this during the time I worked on Site 9. Things seemed too far along to have only started in the last two years, and I'd never heard anything about it from my coworkers, either. Was Guyamo hiding them somehow, using the energy to cloak himself? If so, how'd we find him this time? Maybe it was the site itself. What I was sure of, was this involved magic, or at least the supernatural. Even I could convince conventional authorities to help, could they accomplish anything? I only knew one person with training in magic, and they were more likely to use it against me than to help me. It was starting to look like I should have charged in when I had the chance. Still, I plodded down the slope, almost on autopilot, when I saw the headlights.
Lots of headlights. Belonging to several trucks. Some had only a driver within, other carried one passenger, maybe even two. Some of their faces were serious, others nervous, and a few were even excited. I felt a smile work its way onto my face. We had a chance. I charged down the hill, leaping into the road, waving my arm above my head, trying to look calmer than I felt.
"Could I talk to all of you for a second?" I called out. None of them said anything, but all the trucks came to a stop before me, those inside watching me with looks of curiosity on their faces.