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The Story:

The standalone portico’s roof was made of spaced wooden slats, letting sunlight through in stripes across the brick floor. As she walked through it, she thought it to be a good representation of the barred members of society, living in shadows while the rest were allowed to freely shine. Through the concrete columns, she could see the brick building with a row of second floor windows he had been talking about.

“Brad, are you sure this is the right place?”
“Yes, and it’s brilliant. Treater hounds wouldn’t bother looking for them in such a public place.”

She rubbed her ear with her shoulder. The vibration of the earpiece when Brad spoke was tickling but using her hands to adjust it would be too obvious.

“Such a public place will make it harder, though.”
“We’ll figure that out later, Ali. Just meet them first.”

At the end of the portico, she entered the building to her right. Inside, three treater hounds sat around a table, enjoying a few drinks and laughing, oblivious to what was above their heads. She passed them quickly, hoping they wouldn’t recognize her face. But the owner behind the counter did.

With wide eyes, he used his head to motion for her to come behind the counter. She snuck around and knelt down.

“You shouldn’t be here,” the owner whispered to her.
“Neither should they. It’s too dangerous for them to stay here.”

He nodded and lifted a trap door in the floor. She jumped in, and he closed it, leaving her in a dark tunnel lit only by the light that leaked in through the floorboards above her.

The tunnel went right underneath the treater hounds’ table and ended at a ladder that went up behind the wall. She climbed the ladder to the second floor and came to a wooden door in the wall.

When she opened it, several dirty, thin people stepped backwards, afraid of her.

“Shh! Shh, it’s okay. I’m here to help you.”

One by one, each of their mouths started to gape open as they realized who she was. A shaggy teenage boy with scraggly chin hair finally spoke.

“Are… Are you The Liberator?”

She bent down, wiped a tear from the face of a small girl, and smiled.

“I am.”


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