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“A mate of yours, you say?” Larabee finally found his voice. “There was a kid. A little girl. She fell through. Vin…” The words were disjointed as he tried to articulate what his brain had not yet fully accepted. “It happened so fast.” The old man steered him by the elbow and deposited him away from the rescue team next to an equally perplexed Standish, the two of them trading shell-shocked glances as they sat and drank the tea that had been thrust upon them, and waited. Chris ran a hand through his gritty hair, and hung his head. Shit! Clasping the huge mug in both hands he looked at the state of his hands. He had not noticed before but his fingernails were torn and bloody, his hands and arms covered with a myriad of cuts from digging through the rubble. He glanced sideways and noted that Ezra had fared no better, his usually trimmed and manicured fingers as bruised and bloodied as his own and for a moment he bitterly regretted having earlier accused the Southerner of not knowing what work was. “Chris?” “What?” “I’m sorry.” Larabee looked up, puzzled. “For what?” “For bringing us here.” “Hell, wasn’t your fault. Vin wanted to see the “real” city.” Ezra hung his head. “I believe he saw a bit more of reality than he wanted to.” The blond pilot sighed heavily and sipped the scalding brew. “Sometimes a man gets to thinking when he should be doing. Too much thinking kinda gets in the way in this business.” Ezra set his half-empty mug down on the ground between his feet and looked ruefully at the state of his hands, absently tearing off a broken nail as he looked to where the rescuers still dug steadily and patiently. “Vin has the heart and soul of a poet, Chris. Sometimes his is a different reality to ours.” “Don’t know about that, Ezra. Seeing a recon photo just doesn’t have the same impact as being right in the thick of it, it does it? No, I figure he’s just realised once and for all that all this is no longer a game.” Ezra picked up his tea again and tiredly rubbed a hand across his face.

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