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Demon Hunter's Side Story From The Bunker

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posted on Apr, 12 2004 @ 04:18 PM
Great stuff, guy. It'll take me until wednesday to post after this greatness, but I'll try to make it as evoking...


posted on Apr, 12 2004 @ 10:17 PM
Nice chapters DH!
I'm going to work on my next chapter tonight but I won't be able to post in the update thread since its been moved and I don't have writer status yet. I think I should talk to JB.

posted on Apr, 12 2004 @ 10:25 PM
Another riveting read, DH

Ranger- I sent a a U2U to JB. He changed my status to writer and gave me access to the update thread.

posted on Apr, 13 2004 @ 10:19 AM
Thanks for the kudos, guys. I'm really starting to have a lot of fun here.

posted on Apr, 13 2004 @ 12:30 PM
Very nice DH. I loved the powwow. Keep up the good work.

posted on Apr, 21 2004 @ 01:37 AM
Note: This installment takes place immediately following the events shown in Chapter 30: Hush, of Deus Ex's My ATS Story.

The music seemed to fit my mood as the convoy arrived at our destination. Have to love a good Creedence number when the time calls for it. The guitar-driven rock and roll just had the right feel, like this wasnt a kids game. No kiddie-pop here. This was for real. Now we just had to implement the admittedly risky plan wed come up with. Ordinarily Id have gone for the cover of night, but we were hoping to simply be so brazen in our attack that nobody would ever expect it. And since I was the one who gave the final approval, I made sure I would be among the first ones through the gate.

Whoa, thought it was a nightmare,
Lo, it's all so true,
They told me, "Don't go walking slow
'Cause Devil's on the loose."

I knew the Devils were itching for action as wed mounted up, but watching them go over their weapons, again and again, I knew that I had the right people in place to do the job. Theyd been going stir-crazy, but something didnt quite seem right. At first glance, Deus seemed to be as fired up as anyone, but I could tell something was troubling him. Looks like maybe another talk was in order after this mission, if we both made it out alive.

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Three squads jumped from their vehicles, making their way into the woods. These were our snipers, the best shooters we had, and I was taking a chance by putting them all outside the perimeter of the tree line. I knew they had only thirty minutes to make it to their position and prepare for the shooting to start. The plan had called for them to take out any guards in the towers they could as we made our approach. Wed serve as both their distraction and the assault, all at once.

Thought I heard a rumbling
Calling to my name,
Two hundred million guns are loaded
Satan cries, "Take aim!"

Lindsey and I faced each other and exchanged knowing a knowing look, staring deep into each others eyes. Id armed myself with a MAC10 submachine gun, and I checked over the weapon once more, part of the personal arsenal I acquired after my triumph at the craps table. Lindsey was whistling a tune nobody could hear over the blaring rock and roll as she checked over her sword, a perfect match for mine. Of course, Im not sure if anyone would have heard her whistling anyway.

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

By now the snipers had made their way to the tree line, setting up shop in some brush. If the three most important things for any business are location, location, and location, Id say these people were set up to make a killing when the doors opened for business. We were on radio silence, so I had to rely on them being good at what they do to get them in position.

Over on the mountain
Thunder magic spoke,
"Let the people know my wisdom,
Fill the land with smoke."

I kissed my lightning pendant and muttered a prayer to the storms, asking for their speed and fury to guide me through the coming maelstrom. A few glanced over at me as my head was bowed slightly, the lightning bolt clutched tightly in my hand. Lindsey rolled her eyes as I tucked it into my shirt. I looked forward as I felt the truck surge forward, hearing the first shots ring out. I hoped they were our snipers.

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

No looking back now....

posted on Apr, 20 2005 @ 08:55 PM
A year ago, Deus Ex began something here on ATS that eventually led to the publication of his book, The Bunker. We were all enthralled by his My ATS Story and I was happy to be given a chance to add to it. This shall be the final chapter for my end of the story, after a year's delay. It doesn't fit anywhere within the realm of what was posted here, but instead follows Pyres, Chapter 41 of The Bunker.

I wanted to give everyone a chance to read the book before I did this, so I waited a bit, and then I got away from things here.

Hopefully this will be worth the wait.

Blaze of Glory

Each night I go to bed
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
No I ain't looking for forgiveness
But before I'm six foot deep
Lord, I got to ask a favor
And hope you'll understand
'Cause I've lived life to the fullest
Let this boy die like a man
Staring down a bullet
Let me make my final stand

The outcry of the dead pierced my brain, leaving my psyche battered and my brain bruised. I sat on the floor of my private quarters, facing the pictures of my Horsemen, of Heather, and of my dear friend Lindsey. It was all I could do to take a deep breath and try to clear my mind, desperately seeking the tranquility of thought, the serenity of senses I'd surely need now if we were to have any success when the carnage came calling later. For today was the day I'd long feared would come.

Today was Judgment Day.

I felt a tiny hand rest on my shoulder, giving a slight squeeze -- the first time I realized that Lindsey was there in my quarters all this time. Then I felt her body against mine, as she sank to the floor, her arms wrapping around me from the side. "You know, DH, this is the day Death and the others wanted you to be ready for," she spoke softly, almost uncharacteristically so. I hadn't heard such tenderness in her voice since long before her death.

I hadn't heard such sadness since the day she'd told me her family was dead.

Kinda weird for me to admit she was dead though. I still couldn’t determine whether she was there only as part of some paranoid delusion, a psychotic episode that grew in influence everyday. Or maybe I was as psychic as I’d always believed, and her spirit just wouldn’t let me go.

The kid was right though, as much as neither of us wanted to actually say it. Today was Judgment Day. One last ride for the last of the Four Horsemen. One last fight to preserve the peace we'd all given so much in vain to keep a reality. That's what today came down to.

I turned to face her and put my arms around her, the two of us holding each other a few moments, just trying to to keep the other from shaking. A soft kiss to her forehead and then I pulled away.

I just needed a clear mind. I couldn't let my feelings run free now. I needed to save up all of that pent-up emotion for later. I needed to keep hope alive for my people. I needed to be of clear mind for the sake of the volunteers who were joining me for one last shot, one last blaze of glory.

"Kid, you don't have to come along on this ride," I said, my voice rasping as I choked back the torrent of emotions that threatened to creep into my consciousness. My long black shirt slipped over my head, covering the thin foam and composite riding gear I wore as limited protection. I looked into her eyes, and Lindsey smiled sadly.

"You saved me a long time ago, DH. I might get to save you today." She turned away, pulling her sword and utility belt from her foot locker by my desk. It was followed closely by her black, soft, leather moccasin boots, a match for the ones I wore.

We continued our personal preparations in silence, knowing that things had changed a lot for both of us since that night so many years ago when I'd first met her -- the night I'd talked her out of suicide.

I pulled my black utility belt around my waist, checking the magazine pouches for the ever-rarer clips for my MAC-10. Black kevlar gloves, covering up past my elbows, slipped on for yet another level of protection. I needed to make sure I wouldn't take any "stupid" wounds -- the kinda stuff that doesn't hurt you much but will slow you down from nagging problems when they add up.

I'd been holding my body together with chewing gum, bailing wire, and willpower for a few months, so I couldn't afford anything new added to the mix. Once more I donned the lightning charm with it’s red and black cord for a necklace, kissing the lightning bolt before dropping it down the front of my shirt.

Once the two of us were ready, Lindsey looked me in the eye and smiled again, the look of sadness still tainting her otherwise angelic features. Then she nodded her head toward the door, signaling that she knew we were both as ready as we were going to get.

The door swung open, and I waved Lindsey into the chaotic hallway, closing the door behind us. We made our way through the people carrying supplies and equipment down into the tunnels, to the command center, where Springer was supervising the grand escape.

Seeing Springer for what I knew would likely be the last time, I made my way across the room and shook his hand. Our eyes met, silently confirming for him that I knew he was up to whatever task was needed to safeguard our people and their escape. All he could say before turning back to his work was, “It’s been a privilege, TDH. Thank you.”

I nodded silently as I made my way up the main house, Lindsey snaking through the traffic behind me. There were only five men waiting for us top-side. There had been so many faces to pass through the bunker over the last few months that I didn’t even recognize them all.

One of them though was a reporter and anti-globalization activist named Mitchell. I didn’t know if it was his first name or his last, and at this point, I didn’t have time to care. I just knew he was among the few volunteers who could be spared for the suicide squad. He loaded up a camera along with the gear they’d scavenged from what was left of the armory John Bull had overseen.

Deus Ex, Gothique, and Intrepid made their way across the room as I moved to intercept Mitchell.

“Sorry there, chief, but the camera is a big no-no,” I rasped. “You may wanna document this for posterity, but you’re not gonna see much without a decent flash on that camera, and last time I checked, we’re relying on surprise, so let’s just drop that idea, okay?”

Mitchell was less than pleased with the idea, but he removed the camera anyway, just as the Devils arrived at my side. DE extended a hand and I quickly took it, pulling him closer to whisper in his ear. “Remember Thermoplyae, Chris.” I stepped back, still grasping his hand and looked him in the eye, hoping he’d gotten my meaning. We nodded to each other, a grim expression crossing both our faces before I turned to face the volunteers once more.

“Okay boys and girls,” I called out to no one person in particular. “We’ve got a job to do here. I don’t expect perfection, but I expect you to give all you’ve got. You all know your assignments, so let’s gear up and move out.”

Lindsey chimed in, “You heard him, people! Get a move on. Move like you’re not stuck in molasses.” I tell you, the last thing I wanted to listen to was a dead teenager barking out like a drill sergeant, but I couldn’t help but break a smile. She’d gotten me to loosen up yet again.

After a few minutes and some final gear checks, we made our way into the darkness. Lindsey fell in at my side as I was the first one into the tree line. I had the point once more. Some habits die hard. This time around, I was hoping that my habits weren’t the only thing that wouldn’t die.

Creeping through the woods for what seemed like an eternity, the snow crunched under our feet. We soon came across the bend where we’d planned out ambush, just a couple miles out from the bunker. My men fanned out in all directions, splitting up to cover both sides of the road. Our only hope was to stop these corporate goons before they could get to the house. Just needed to buy some time.

Lindsey and I settled in side-by-side in a tree that overlooked the small service road to the bunker, preparing for a final onslaught. We exchanged a knowing glance just as she pulled a mask on. Something about the way she looked was eerily familiar but I couldn’t place it. Like I’d seen that before from her. Couldn’t place it though.

And then came the sound of engines getting closer.

This was Judgment Day.

“Okay kids, let’s get this right,” I mumbled under my breath, more to myself than to anyone in particular.

“Relax, TDH,” Lindsey whispered in my ear, “these guys know the plan.”

Something didn’t feel right though. Something was wrong. Something was going to go very wrong, I just knew it. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this, kiddo.”

And then the first vehicle in line rolled into view, a Bradley armored fighting vehicle. A few molotov cocktails flew from the darkness, crashing onto the roof. The fire spread across the armored surface, leaving me in a bit of disbelief. They were supposed to wait for the first explosions to force men out.

Then came the flash of light from the darkness. Son of a bitch must have sneaked a camera out here.

The gunfire that erupted went dead on in that direction. “It’s an ambush! Fire at will! Fire at will!” That was the command I heard ring through the darkness.

“Oh #….” I mumbled with a sigh. “So much for everyone knowing the plan, darlin’.”

Swords in hand, we leapt onto the second Bradley as it reached us. As the hatch opened in the back, I threw myself behind the vehicle, letting a grenade fly into the opening, rolling to my feet just in time to leap off into shadow once more. Lindsey was nowhere in sight, and I could only hope she was still with me somehow.

“Gotta keep moving,” I told myself as the vehicle erupted in smoke and flame. Wounded men staggered out, desperately clutching their weapons, only to be cut down by automatic fire from the rest of my squad. Maybe this was going to work after all. We’d slowed one of the Bradleys, took out another, and just had to keep moving. Had to hit and run in the darkness to keep these guys off-balance.

If this was Judgment Day, I was willing to send as many of these guys to Hell as it took.

Things rapidly went wrong though. One of my men was cut down by small arms fire as another squad of corporate goons swarmed out of the next Bradley. A flamethrower belched out a stream of fury like a dragon unleashed, taking out the brush around the man who’d just fallen. So much for retrieving him to get medical attention.

Another death on my conscience. Another person I’d failed. I couldn’t let another death be for naught.

It fueled the fire that was building within me, as everything slowly turned to a haze of red in front of me. Had to ride that rage, seek the fury of the storms to guide my hand as I spun away from a hail of lead, using the wreckage of the second Bradley to gain cover while moving against the first one. Had to use the madness as it consumed me, wearing it like a suit of armor as blood stained my blade.

Two more fell to my katana, and I rolled away to the side of the road, just in time to see two more of my men fall as more troops climbed from their vehicles.

The Bradleys were split in the convoy it seemed, with a contingent of Hummers mixed in. All I could think of was how we had to hold this pass. I had lost three of my original six – seven if I counted Lindsey. This was going bad in a big way.

My MAC-10 barked out at my targets, spitting at them from the darkness as I leaped into a crowd of goons. Not the best idea I’d had all day, as one of them grazed me with a shot as I killed his squad mates. And here I thought they wouldn’t shoot if I was in the middle of them. “So much for that idea,” I thought as I eviscerated him, spilling his organs out onto the road. I was lucky that it wasn’t serious, but this was one of those things I couldn’t repeat too many times.

“Fire in the hole!” I heard the scream and recognized it as one of my own, but couldn’t place who. After a moment though, any voices were drowned out by the explosions. Seemed like we were making some progress after all. Then I rounded a corner and saw another of my men cut down before me.

The gunfire was constant, with various positions firing on me at all times. Not good. And I was almost out of ammo for my MAC-10. Not good at all. I snapped out from what little cover I had and let loose another burst from the submachine gun before it sputtered and clicked to tell me it had not fight left in it.

Suddenly everything was a blur. The red haze of my blood lust was rising up to consume the man who’d held his emotions in check for so many months. The animal inside wanted to be free, and I wasn’t in much of a position to stop the descent into madness that it would bring.

With a roar of anger and frustration I threw myself into them as they advanced. My sword was lost in the melee, stuck hopelessly into the ribcage of the third target it found in the swarm. Without missing a beat, I spun away from it just as a shower of bullets perforated the fallen soldier, pulling two knives from my belt as I moved. I whirled into the path of a dozen more, slicing my way through them, stabbing whatever I could.

The snow turned from virgin white to the crimson of gore as I blazed a path through the oncoming horde. I felt a few shots hit my legs and shoulders, but still I pushed forward, frothing like a rabid dog. The growls escaped my lips like the venomous proclamations of a wounded animal, for that’s what I’d become. I had nothing left to lose but my life, and I planned on making every last breath count if it was going to be lost here and now.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Mitchell staggering off into the trees, clutching his belly as his camera dropped from his hand. So much for the story he’d wanted to tell. Everyone’s attention was focused on me now, giving him the chance to escape for himself. I just hoped he’d make it back to the camp to give them a progress report.

Finally the weight of sheer numbers slowed my advance first to a crawl and then stopped me dead in my tracks. I wasn’t able to keep moving forward, but I knew that we’d slowed them down a bit. It wasn’t enough though. I hadn’t taken out nearly enough of them.

A blow to the back of my head finally dropped me to my knees, and I felt the ground come rushing up to meet me. After a few minutes' struggle, I was dragged down the road in the direction of the rear vehicles in their convoy.

That’s when I saw him.

Mr. Morden was there, climbing from a Hummer. Our eyes met, and I knew then and there that I wanted just one more thing in life. I wanted his head, separate from his body, torn to pieces in my bare hands. I didn’t see much opportunity though.

“So Mr. Hunter, still insist on playing this game?” He looked like the cat who’d eaten the canary. I just wanted to get my hands on him. My lips pulled back, baring my long incisors.

With a grin taken straight from the devil himself, I looked up at Morden. “Here’s the catch, bub. You’ve got me right where I want to be.” Grinning like a madman, I found myself spitting blood as the laughter came out.

“Your hopeless bravado means nothing, Mr. Hunter. You’re all alone now, with none of your” his voice trailed off, failing him completely before he could finish his sentence. That’s when Morden’s face went ashen, his eyes fixed on a spot well above me.

A very familiar voice called out just then. “You know, Morden, you talk too much. You give me a really big headache, so shut up for a while, okay?”

Morden pointed to the top of the Bradley behind me, screaming out orders. “Kill her! Just kill her! I don’t want to hear her comments anymore!” Maybe I hadn’t been so crazy after all.

Everyone else followed the line of Morden’s gaze, trying unsuccessfully to see what had him so rattled. It gave me the opening I needed. I whispered softly, “Thanks, darlin’. That’s the opening I needed.”

With a roar of anger, I was able to throw off my captors, drawing one of their sidearms as they scrambled in confusion. I got a few shots off and then tumbled forward into the wall of men who blocked my path to Morden. Howling like an animal, I charged into them, my fingers squeezing off one shot after another. The ones I didn’t kill weren’t going to be part of the fight for a while.

I just kept pushing for Morden. “I like this kinda party Morden! You and me, we’re gonna dance!”

It wasn’t meant to be though, and once again I saw I was going to come up short. With one final push of desperation, I pulled at the pins on a few grenades I’d pulled from my thigh pockets and dove head-long into the wall of humanity that lay in my path.

This was Judgment Day, and I was taking them all to Hell with me in a blaze of glory.

posted on Apr, 20 2005 @ 09:07 PM
well done TDH, I think it was worth the wait. For anyone new to the saga, go back and read the whole story and don't forget to read DE's ATS story either.

posted on Apr, 20 2005 @ 09:19 PM
Thanks, WW!

I was happy to finally get this one out. Some would say that writing about your own death is morbid, but I view this as a character piece more than anything at the end.

And yes, DE's My ATS Story is required reading for the whole thing to make sense.

posted on Apr, 21 2005 @ 10:57 AM
Great post, sibkin. Makes me proud I could inspire such good writing. Every should go back and re-read the original ATS Story Saga. I still have a few books left....


posted on Apr, 21 2005 @ 11:37 AM
I re-read it all the time. I've compiled all the online chapters of our combined writings into one Word document for my own reference, as well as a copy of the book. Good stuff we had going there, sibkin.

Maybe we'll do it again sometime.

[edit on 4/21/2005 by TheDemonHunter]

posted on Aug, 18 2008 @ 12:38 PM
I've been lurking about for a while, so I decided to throw this up to let everyone know that rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.


The winds howled outside, causing me to shudder as I looked out a window in my burned-out mountain home. The laces of my moccasin boots cinched them tight as I tied them at my knees. I pulled on my wide brimmed hat, to give shelter from the unrelenting storm building outside. After checking the pouches on my belt, I pulled my black duster trenchcoat around me and once more stepped out into the darkness, my long dark hair whipping about, lashing at the unprotected flesh of my cheeks as the winds manipulated the long strands like the talented hand of a taskmaster wields his whip.

A cold rain beat down upon the scorched earth and charred trees that surrounded my once-proud compound, and only occasional lightning illuminated the grounds as I made my way along the heavily eroded gravel roadway that led the way out of this abysmal place. The time had finally come for me to make my escape, to take leave of the one place that had been my refuge, the only world I had known since that dark, fiery night seemingly ages ago. How long it had been since Judgment Day I couldn't hope to know. The days had so easily blurred into weeks, then into months and so on. Truth be told, I had no idea how long it had been since the end had come that fateful night. A terrible price was paid in human souls, in the blood, sweat, and tears of the men and women who had lived here. A scant few of us had given our all to defend the escape of the defenseless.

We'd failed to give enough.

Each step across the compound gave me another view to the hastily marked graves of those who had fallen before the final decision to evacuate had been made. Each step took me back to another time in this place. Each step was another stride down the shadowy corridors of my memories, hallways that eerily echoed the cries of the dead as the dim reminders of their faces burned into my vision. I swore their deaths wouldn't be in vain. I swore I'd give them the vengeance they deserved. I swore to bring honor to their memories.

I'd failed on all counts.

So many times I'd taken this journey, trying to find my way out of this crumbling ruin I'd once called home. Another locale could bring me the peace I'd long sought, the relief I'd never found. I just needed to escape this private Hell I'd been locked away in for longer than I could remember. I needed to get away from the reminders of my failures. I needed a new lease on life.

The mud seemed to suck me down into the earth as I trudged onward, my forward motion slower and slower with each passing stride. I could feel icy fingers reaching up from the earth itself as the storms that once called to me as a child of their own now seemed to betray me, giving me nothing but pain and adversity as I struggled onward to the rusted gates of the compound.

And then the thunder crashed and the lightning came once more, turning the night around me to near daylight as the rains redoubled their intensity. In that moment of light, that flicker from the heavens, I saw I wasn't alone.

There was a lone, lithe figure, dressed all in black at the gates. A hood obscured the face but the movements were familiar somehow. Slow and steady and moving completely in silence, my unknown guest made their way across the compound in my direction on the balls of their feet, one hand on a katana that hung from a belt like my own. The other hand was casually at the mystery guest's side as they moved. Moccasins were a match for my own, and so were the SWAT black BDU pants tucked into them. Somethin' felt way too real and way too wrong about this, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I watched, shifting my eyes from side to side to take in the surroundings. Whole thing could have been a trap, a diversion to keep my attention from what was really goin' on.

My hands drifted to the USMC combat knives strapped to my thighs as I stepped toward the shadowy intruder. I wasn't quite as good at the stealth routine anymore, but at least I seemed to be up for a good scrap if it came down to it. Truth be told, I was hopin' for a good old fashioned rip and tear fest, something to make me feel alive again. Been too long since I could say I really felt alive. Maybe this was just what I needed. If someone came here to disturb this place, I decided they were in for a world of hurt.

I stopped my approach and turned my head a little, cracking my neck as my fingers gingerly ran across the twin blades that were all I had left from my old arsenal. In a deep, raspy voice I half-growled, "If you're here for trouble, you found it." Not too convincing though I guess, because the mystery guest kept moving in my direction. I was just curious how long until they signed in so I knew who I would be stomping into the earth. Slowly a black gloved hand pulled that sword out and I grinned, knowing I needed to get the blood pumping again. Couldn't sense anyone else around us, so maybe this really was a one-on-one kinda deal.

posted on Aug, 18 2008 @ 12:38 PM
Just as the lightning flashed again I was moving forward, the knives pulled from their sheathes as I lashed out wildly like an animal. I must have been a half-step slower than I used to be though, because that shadow wasn't there when my knives got to the target area. I spun about on the wet gravel and saw that shadow standing right where I had come from, the sword in hand but still in its scabbard. I growled again, "Nice trick. Let's see what you really have though." I whirled about, swinging a kick up at the hooded figure's head. Never made contact though, as they ducked under. A half-step slow again I guess, but I pushed on, bringing one knife across to slash the body. That damned scabbard stopped me. Didn't matter though.

I was gonna defend the memories of these people who died. I couldn't fail them now in death as I'd done for them in life. The battle, if you can call it that, raged on in a furious series of slashes and kicks. I never made solid contact though and after a few minutes that seemed like an eternity doubts crept into my heart and soul. It was like they knew every attack, every move I made, before I made it. Felt like I was just failing again, and my attacks grew more ragged, more unpredictable, and less disciplined as I struggled for what I saw as redemption.

Redemption never came though. Quick as the lightning I adored, the mystery guest suddenly went on the offensive and swept out my legs, dropping me on my back in the mud. Fear took my breath away. A foot on my chest was followed by the sound of that sword being released from its scabbard. I felt weak and desperate but couldn't recover in time as the blade flashed out at my throat. For some reason though, it never cut me, stopping just against my neck. I lay there looking up at this shadow who had conquered me and I knew I had failed yet again. "Just do it," I growled weakly. The rains washed over us and the thunder rolled across the compound before giving way to the sound of the rains once more.

Felt like a lifetime as I was laying there, waiting for the end. The sky lit up again and then came the voice, soft and gentle and full of youth.

"The fight's over, DH." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. When the hood was pulled back, I couldn't believe who I saw either.

I looked up into Lindsey's eyes. "Darlin,' is that you?" I couldn't catch my breath and I felt tears mix with the raindrops running down my cheeks as I lay there in the mud.

She nodded slowly with a weak smile. "Who else would want to come take you home from this little Hell you made for yourself?"

"But I need to..."

"You need to rest, DH. I'm here to take you home." She moved the sword away from my neck and stepped off of my chest. "It's going to be alright." Her small hand extended out to me. "Please, just come with me," she pleaded. I took her hand and slowly rose to my feet. I was afraid to let go and so was she. She stepped in close and slipped her arms into my duster and around my body. We just stood there shaking, holding on to each other as we both cried. "You did everything you could. Now you need to let go of this life. Let go of this place."

I whispered softly in her ear, "Take me home, darlin.' Take me home." She kissed my cheek and held me tight as the heavens erupted again in flashes of lightning and deafening thunder around us.

And then the compound was empty again.

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