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‘With respect, we don’t know anything about you, so why should we trust you?’ said Shenado.
“Please, we’re here to help,” said Charlie. “Call General Lawrence, if you must. He will confirm.”
“I have been trying to call my husband,” said Mariana. “Why is he not answering?”
“Captain Zeff was captured,” said Charlie.
Mariana’s expression flickered. “By whom?”
“A rogue faction within the Vanguard. They want your family, because you have information regarding the whereabouts of your daughter, Gema.”
‘Why do they want Gema?’
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know any more than that,” said Charlie.
Shenado paused. ‘Where are your reapers?’
“Scouting the area for threats,” said Jonathan.
Mariana eyed the two men again, still not opening the door any farther. Her instincts told her not to trust them, but she knew her instincts to be a bit jaded. Everything they said sounded plausible, at least. And if there really was another threat out there, then ignoring these men might mean putting her children in even more danger. She clenched her jaw at the tense silence, uncertain what to do, and glanced at Shenado for help.
‘Shut the door,’ the reaper told her privately. ‘Tell them you don’t want their help, and then let’s see how they react.’
Mariana closed it and backed away from the door’s treated gray wood. “Thank you for the warning! But I will be protecting my family without your help!”
“No, please, listen to us!” came Jonathan’s muffled voice. “We’re only concerned for your safety!”
“I appreciate that! You can tell General Lawrence I refused your assistance!”
They pleaded a few more times, but Mariana said nothing further. She kept backing up, consciously stepping closer to her covered landmine, and tried Cisco again while she waited. Still no answer.
When the pleas stopped, Mariana hunkered down and listened intently.
‘They’re moving away from the door,’ Shenado informed her. ‘They appear to be leaving... Hmm. We’ll wait a bit more before going after them.’ Abruptly, however, the reaper’s head twitched to the side. ‘I sense three more souls entering the property from the rear. I don’t recognize them.’