The instant the soldiers left them inside the stadium, Eddie turned to Bryce. "Are you feeling it yet?"
Bryce rubbed his nose. "Feeling what? I'm a little..." He frowned. "I think I need to sit down."
"You need to concentrate," Eddie said. "They're casting a spell on us... on you. It's making you depressed, but you can fight it."
Bryce sat on the nearest unoccupied bench. "How?"
"Kai beat it by focusing on her thoughts. She said she felt..." Eddie struggled for the right words. "She felt like someone was pushing clouds into her head through her ears. It was warm and—"
"It hums," Bryce said, closing his eyes. "Yeah, I think I see what you mean."
"While you can, you need to focus on pushing that hum out of your head. You can beat it."
Bryce's face screwed up in determination. "I can... I can kind of move it if I..."
"Work on it," Eddie said, standing. "I'll go tell Phyllis what we know."
"What do we know?" Bryce asked, not looking up.
"I don't want to distract you. Focus."
Phyllis and Syd remained where Eddie had left them. The cyborg clearly struggled to hide her desperation, her good eye darting around at soldiers and exits. Syd hadn't moved at all since Eddie last saw him.
"What's the news?" Phyllis whispered.
"Some good, some bad," Eddie said, sitting beside her.
"You find a way out of here?"
"Possibly. Can you swim?"
"That stream leads out of the stadium to a river. There's bars, but they're rusted over."
"If it's the same river we saw last night, it runs right by the parking lot where our cars are."
"We'll have to escape at night. They keep it dark in here."
"That's what I was thinking."
"What about the bad news?" Phyllis asked.
Eddie sighed. "They think we're some kind of fortune hunters, that we're in league with the dragon riders."
Phyllis lowered her head. "That's going to make things difficult for Melbourne and Syd."
"I don't think Syd will have any luck here. I just met the mayor, and he's just not asking the right questions. He doesn't seem curious about what's going on outside his city. When I told him about Cavaheim and the human sacrifices, he seemed only slightly interested, like it doesn't process. He's almost as ignorant as the people in his city."
"Starvation might wake these people up."
"And make them desperate. Remember, they've got an army here. You might not want them knowing there's an underground community with plenty of resources just a short drive away."
Phyllis's face darkened. She frowned. "I've got to get out of here. We've gone about this trade mission all wrong. The turnpike needs to be guarded."
They were silent for a while. Eddie tapped at his leg. The stone in his pocket was just under his fingertip.
"Why do you carry that thing?" Phyllis asked.
"That rock. You've had it since the Gurg shrine."
"How do you know I've got it?"
She tapped at her mechanical eye. "Useful gadget, this. I can see through all kinds of things."
Eddie fought the urge to draw his hands up over his crotch. That cow's left the barn. "It's just a rock," he said.
"It looks uncomfortable."
Phyllis sat quietly, waiting for an explanation. When she didn't get one, she shrugged and stood. "Well, I should check out those bars blocking the stream."
As Phyllis stepped down towards the playfield, Kai pushed by her, first running, then stopping, folding her arms and fighting to frown. The little boy she'd been playing with was with her.
"Eddie, I met a friend."
Eddie leaned forward. "You've got to act sad, remember?"
"I been acting sad. I frown whenever I see them angry men. My friend's name is Timmy."
The boy walked up behind her, grinning. He was older than Kai—eight or nine years old with messy red hair. At first Ed barely noticed him. Then a growing recognition froze Eddie in place.
The boy waved at Eddie. "Do you speak English? My name's Timmy Barlow. What's yours?"
Ed's whole body went cold. He couldn't speak. He couldn't move.
"What's wrong, Eddie?" Kai asked.
Eddie's mouth twitched. He let out a tiny squeak.
"Are you okay, mister?" Timmy Barlow asked.
The boy took a step forward, and Eddie lurched backwards, hitting the back of the bench and sliding sideways into Syd. "Don't," he cried.
Now the boy frowned, confused and sad. He drew his hands back. "I— I won't hurt you."
"How are you here," Eddie whispered.
Timmy pointed. "The stairs."
"How are you alive?"
"You..." Eddie stammered. "You're..." He turned to Kai and asked in Vayna, "Did you touch him?"
"Lots of times. We play tag."
It was Tim. A younger version of Tim. Somehow, versions of Tim kept appearing. What did it mean?
"You need to go away," Eddie said, his voice squeaking.
"What's wrong, Timmy?" Kai asked in her own language. "Why you look so sad?"
Timmy looked like he wanted to cry. "Nobody likes me," he said, sobbing. He turned and ran back onto the playfield. Kai turned to follow.
"Kai, stay away from him," Eddie called.
Kai turned. "No," she demanded and ran away after her friend.
Bryce sat down next to Eddie as he watched them leave. "Did you see that kid?" Bryce asked. "He looked kind of like Tim."
Eddie turned, startled. "You're, better?"
Bryce flashed a covert smile. "I think I've got it figured out. I'm still feeling down, but I'm not a zombie anymore."
Eddie explained their plan to break out that evening.
"Sounds good. We get out of here. Then what?"
"Well, Phyllis wants to go back to the turnpike. I guess I made her paranoid about a possible attack from Graden."
"Might happen. These people are crazy."
Eddie told Bryce all that Galatina and the mayor had said in their interview. When he finished, Bryce's jaw clenched like a bear trap. "They're ignoring our warning?"
"That prophetess has screwed up everything for us. I think we have to go north and see what we can do in Cavaheim ourselves."
"Do you even know how far it is? I haven't seen these mountains everyone's talking about."
"No idea. But we've got to do something."
"Well, there's nothing we can do until night. If we swim out of here now, they're just going to find us in the parking lot and lock us up again."
"There's no guarantees they won't find us at night. When we swim..." Eddie broke off.
"What is it?"
The rock in his pocket. What would happen if he swam in the stream with it? What was the rock, and what would happen when it entered the water? Eddie was becoming certain he absolutely couldn't let that happen.