1.8 Blame

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Margo slid her hands around steel bars, searching for a way out of the cage. She tried not to think too hard about the weird fogginess beyond the cage. It looked like a foggy day, but it hadn't dimmed or brightened in more than ten hours, which was about how long had passed since she'd awoken in this trap. No visible ground, and no obvious sky. If not for the catwalks that receded into that fog—and the cage—she might have assumed that she was in some kind of afterlife, or that she was the victim of an alien abduction. But catwalks and a steel cage had to mean humans.

"I wish you'd stop." Lynn sounded ragged. "We don't know what's out there."

"Thomas might be out there." Margo inched along an upper part of the cage wall, testing each bar. "He probably needs help." She was his caretaker; she should have protected him.

"Or he's dead," Lynn snapped. "Maybe that knock-out gas overdosed him. He's not exactly in wonderful health. You won't be either, if you break your neck."

"I won't fall." Margo was sure of it. Her hair and parka flared whenever she moved, and she was as light as a feather, able to cling to the cage ceiling with almost no effort. They had awoken to a falling sensation which never stopped. She had already tested every steel bar of the lower cage, so she might as well test the upper bars and grid ceiling.

Anyhow, what kind of a sadistic work crew would seal four innocent people into a cage without any way out? There must be a hidden gate.

"Just sit down, Margo." Lynn enunciated each word, as if speaking to a dull child. "What if you accidentally trigger some kind of trap?" She made a sound of frustration. "Has it occurred to you that we might be safer inside the cage?"

Margo eyed the chains, and the trough of water. Metallic choker collars wrapped around each of their necks. She wanted to point out that only animals got treated this way, but she could see how scared Lynn was. "I don't like feeling trapped." Unlike Lynn and Alex, she never would have imprisoned herself. She slapped the bars. "This makes me feel the opposite of safe."

As soon as the words left her mouth, she could have kicked herself in shame. Alex had probably never felt safe in his life, and now, of all of them, he had the most reason for complaint. Gigantic shackles and chains fastened him to one wall. Margo had tried to lift one of the chains, and it had been impossible for her to budge. Those chains must weigh as much as anchors.

"Sorry," she told him.

Alex looked resigned. He shrugged, and the chains moved up with his massive shoulders, then clanked down. He might be strong enough to bend or break the cage bars—which was probably why their unknown captors had trussed him up like King Kong. He had to strain just to adjust his position.

"I can't believe our visit turned into this," Margo said.

"Thomas will get us free." Cherise's voice was as soft as the misty light.

After hours of listening to Lynn's despairing diatribes, Margo had inwardly wanted someone else to speak. But this was ridiculous. Cherise looked downright relaxed, lying on the grated floor as if Thomas was nearby and working on his laptop. Not a care in the world. Perhaps her abused childhood had trained her to cope with stress by waiting for a miraculous rescue.

"I hope so." Margo tried to hide her worry that Thomas was in danger or dead. He acted invincible, but Margo fed him, dressed him, bathed him. He couldn't sit up without assistance. "Thomas might need our help," she said cautiously.

"He's an expert at surviving." Cherise sounded like an adult comforting a worried child.

Lynn made a disgusted noise. "He's the reason we're in this mess. Am I the only one who will acknowledge that he fell for a trick?"

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