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“Please remain calm!” The hotel manager said in the lobby. “We’re only following orders from local police and the national guard! They want to keep the roads clear; as soon as they pass, everything will be back to normal.” Rio rubbed a hand over his scratchy beard while the man continued. “We’re being told that this is the safest place to be right now. Please proceed back to your rooms in an orderly fashion.”

“Excuse me, Ma’am, but I’m blind.” Gemma cut across the rest of the talk at the concierge station and with a loud *smack* laid down her cane against the desktop. People tended to yield when she did that and Gemma wasn’t sure whether the motivation was to let a blind person be helped first or because they thought they could hide completely if they stood perfectly still. Either way, it was effective. She took advantage of the ensuing quiet by steering the dialogue towards logistical issues that people may appreciate more than warnings. “When did the local authorities deliver these instructions to you? How were they received? Via phone? Was there a representative who came by? We’d very much like to speak with them as I’m sure we all have questions. And many of us have already checked out of our rooms through the mobile app. We’d need new arrangements.”

Jules returned and bullied his way through the throng of people to his sister’s side. He leaned in close, “We need to get out of here. Now.” Gemma clutched his arm firmly as he lead them away from the desk. He looked around to get his bearings and moved them towards the parking garage.

“What’s wrong?” Gemma asked. “The hotel said police and National Guard were closing off the roads?” Quinn was right at her side, a steady pressure against her leg as he and Jules guided her down the hallway.

“That’s what it looked like, but they aren’t just passing through. Something is going down out there. Remember I told you people were running around, going nuts? It’s panic out there and the police have no interest in helping anyone. I saw the cops leveling their weapons on civilians. Whatever is happening elsewhere that the Guard’s trying to get to? Well they don’t care about us as they pass through.”

Gemma stopped and pulled against her brother even as he was reaching for the door to the parking garage. “Maybe we should stay here, if it’s not safe out there.”

“I’d rather you and me trust in each other than in this hotel. Who knows how long we’d be stuck here. What’s the food and water situation? What happens when everyone else runs out and wants in here?”

“Runs out? Of water? Why would the utilities be in danger? The National Guard is just passing through then everything’s opened up again. Right?”

“I don’t know, Gemma. It didn’t look like this was just a temporary thing. If it were, they would have just passed right through. You don’t close a street for the National Guard. The National Guard is supposed to do all that for themselves. And when they’re deployed within our own borders? That means something big is happening. We should get to the truck and head upstate.”

“But it’s a rental. We have to return the truck on Monday and my flight…..”

“Gemma, don’t worry about the rental. I’ve lived here long enough to know that you can’t trust people; just family. Just trust me, okay?”

“Alright, fine, but I don’t think all this is necessary. It’s probably nothing.” The twins continued on through the parking garage which was full of screeching tires and car horns.

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