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The Amaranthine Mirage

Summary:
Jasper has mercilessly been ripped from Alice's loving arms by Maria. Can the Cullens get to him in time? Or will they be too late to stop the beast he will become? sequel to visions of you!


Notes:


5. chapter five

Rating 0/5   Word Count 5526   Review this Chapter

Time is a cumbersome entity. Some days it goes by so slowly I almost reach a point of insanity. Other days, it moves so swiftly I can scarcely tell it is moving at all. Unfortunately, I was trapped in the previous case. Each second seemed an hour, and each hour, a day. Through that time, we had to leave the comfort of our hotel suite and take refuge in the woods. We weren't very far from the location I'd killed the young girl at a mere week prior. A few tents were set up, each with its own unique purpose since we didn't sleep. I'd found little use for them since we'd shifted position to this new area. I preferred to brood in silence away from pestering eyes, Palo aside. The mongrel kept an annoyingly close watch on me despite my previous warnings.

Another week snaked by and still I was ignorant of the grand scheme Maria had up her sleeve. I managed to mark a good thirty more people, and already had plans to begin changing and training in the weeks to come. I seemed to do alright when I kept busy. Even though the work was vile and my heart newly faded, it kept my mind from wandering too far into depression. It was when I was alone that the problems arose. With each passing day, I longed more and more to break Maria's hold on me, and with each passing day it became increasingly harder to do so.

The mirage Alice had made vague appearances over the last seven days, but nothing like before. I didn't hear her voice, didn't feel her soft, wind-like touch, nor did I converse with her. But she was there. I would see her from the corner of my eye or standing in the distance, watching me. It would always happen in those moments when I felt I was losing all hope. How could something that brings me up from the depths of despair be a bad thing? Still, Nadia wouldn't budge from her position. She refused to use her gift on me again. Several times I'd practically begged to peek into the life of my family, to know Alice was really looking, that I wasn't here going through hell with no escape on the horizon, but each time Nadia negated my request. In her mind it was "better for my health." I was growing frustrated. Supposedly this mirage would grow stronger the more I let it in. I didn't believe that. Every time it had presented itself, this ethereal Alice had come to help, not harm. Despite Nadia's warnings, I needed hope to cling to. I knew the sort of depression this life cast upon me. Without hope, there would be no surviving this round with Maria. As time ticked by ever slower, I found myself wishing this visage would turn up again as it had before.

It finally happened one red letter day while I was brooding. Hope had become dimmer and eternal slumber was looking more and more appealing. I was perched lazily in a tree far from the activity of the camp we'd set up. Palo was, of course, patrolling the base of the tree in his wolf form to keep me hidden from my wife. Hopelessness began to seep into my aura like a drug seeping through an IV. It was unavoidable and all consuming. Just when I was about to reach the point of sheer depression, Alice appeared in a mist at the end of the branch.

"Hey stranger," she smiled incandescently, her voice echoing as though it came from a faraway place.

I glanced down to see Palo still patrolling unawares. Only I could see her. "Hey yourself," I mumbled softly so the mongrel wouldn't pick up my intonation. Alice smiled and sat herself delicately upon the limb, her eyes never leaving my face. She seemed livelier than usual; more real and less of a memory.

"What are you so moody for?" She smiled as Alice always did. "I'm still here."

"Yes, but I miss the real thing," I muttered to myself.

Alice placed a hand over her heart as if I'd stung her. "Ouch, talk about rude," she mused.

The tiniest of smirks pulled at the corner of my lips. After an instant, it was gone.

"Buck up soldier," Alice smiled, scooting closer. "We've got a long day of work ahead of us."

She leaned her head against my shoulder, nestling there. I sighed. "Yes, we do."

"So do your best," the supposed Alice encouraged. "If you slack off, you'll be punished and I'd hate to see you suffer any further." She kissed my cheek, a wisp of air against my skin, before she whispered softly in my ear. "I have faith in you, Jasper."

I felt a tiny surge of hopefulness creep into my soul and managed a wan smile. I knew Alice would say the same if she were here.

"Jasper," another voice broke through the clearing. My head snapped around at the sound of my name's utterance. Alice disappeared in a wisp of smoke as though she'd never been there at all. "Jasper," Maria's voice rang out again. The tiny bit of light Alice had cast diminished instantly.

"Up here," I answered somberly.

"There you are, mi amor," Maria sounded relieved as she caught sight of me in the tree. "Come down for a moment. I need to speak with you."

I sighed. When Maria needed to talk, it was never a good thing. Still, I had to remain alive until I could find an escape, so refusing an order would not be wise. Fluidly, I dropped from the tree. A loud crunch issued from the homogenous soil beneath my feet as several pebbles were displaced upon impact. My lips were pursed and my eyes were hard as I met her crimson gaze. I wouldn't speak unless I had to. She signaled for me to follow. Palo kept close behind, towering almost as tall as me. His paws made a distinct sound against the dirt with each step, keeping a steady rhythm. I folded my hands behind me as I walked beside my commander.

"I need you to do me a favor," Maria voiced.

"Ask and it will be done," I returned monotonously.

"There is a young vampire that has become an annoyance, a thorn in my side. He operates for the enemy. Somehow he caught wind of my plans. If he succeeds in divulging them, we will all be killed."

"You wish me to dispose of him?"

"Si, mi amor," she smiled, pausing in her walk. I stopped beside her.

"Where can I find him?"

"That is the difficult part. I'm afraid he managed to escape." Her eyes shifted accusingly towards the camp. I wondered which one of us had endured punishment for a failure unable to be avoided.

"He is a newborn?" I could already tell based on her wording. Palo clearly felt aggravated that he hadn't been present to chase the boy down. There was a sting of broken pride in his emotions.

"Yes. He is very clever, but something tells me he will not outsmart you." She set a hand on my cheek. "He must be eliminated quickly. If not, I fear for the safety of our members."

"I'll do what I can."

"Gracias, mi amor. I knew I could count on you."

I nodded once. "Where was he seen last?"

"Near the meeting tent. Take caution, mi soldad. This one is tricky."

I made no effort to respond to her final words. She only cared that I did her bidding. My safety wasn't truly her concern. If I died in the process, she'd simply find another puppet. I blurred swiftly to the tent Maria frequented when planning. It was made of a crude tarp material that hung down from its supports in a triangular pattern like that of a child's drawing. Hidden inside atop an elaborate rug was a long table for her most elite to gather around during one of her many mandatory meetings, and a hutch in which she kept all of her notes and plans locked away. The lock wasn't a necessity. Vampire strength would turn it to dust instantly. Still, if it was suddenly disintegrated, Maria would know someone had been into it. I wasn't very keen on enduring the punishment for such crimes.

I ghosted to the hutch and traced the lock with a careful finger. Someone had been here, someone who wasn't part of our small coven. I knelt slowly. My eyes examined the lock more closely. A reddish blonde hair was caught in the mechanism .Someone had been closely inspecting the coded latch. Clearly the intruder was decent at picking locks. There was no sign of strain anywhere upon the metal. With a steady hand, I removed the small bit of evidence left behind. I took a careful sniff. It was still incredibly potent. The instance in which our intruder left this behind must have occurred during my absence. I'd been hunting earlier in the day. Palo had of course tagged along. This left only Victoria or Nadia as the possible victim of Maria's wrath.

Without explaining a thing to Palo, who was still in his wolf form, I moved swiftly from the tent and made my way across the cluster of other tarps in search of the one who'd let him escape. I didn't have to go very far. Nadia's screams of agony issued from one of the tents on the outer edge. I winced. Her pain was immense. Gently, I reached out with my gift and quelled what little of it I could. Her sonorous voice of agony seemed to die down, though she still whimpered. I stepped carefully inside the tent set aside for punishment. It was unfurnished save for the rug and a makeshift couch of pillows upon which Nadia lay clutching her arm.

"Nadia?" I whispered softly as I knelt beside her. "Can you speak at all?"

With difficulty, Nadia's delicate form twisted to face me. She winced, quite obviously in pain, and managed a nod. I felt terrible for asking this of her. I knew the pain she felt all too well. I wished I could remove her agony entirely, not just the emotional side. She didn't seem accustomed to this sort of treatment.

"Tell me what happened as best you can."

She nodded stiffly and grimaced as she took in air. "I was looking in on the enemy," she rasped. "I saw… them order the boy… to watch us. I tried… to lock in on him, but it was…" She took in a sharp breath. "… it was too hard. By the time I found him… it was too late. He'd already stolen the plans."

"How did he get by undetected?"

Nadia shook her head weakly. "I don't know."

I nodded in understanding and sighed in exasperation. "You get some rest. I'm sorry for your pain. It will get better. I promise."

I set a hand gently on her cheek before rising to my feet. If no one had noticed him until he had the plans, then he was certainly a slippery little devil. I'd have to tread carefully. If I failed, I'd endure much worse than Nadia.

"You can do it," Alice's voice whispered in the wind, and I felt a sudden sense of encouragement.

I stepped outside the tent and observed the miniscule camp with careful eyes. I ignored Palo entirely. It would be difficult to gather a scent with his stink invading my nostrils. He eyed me curiously and shifted impatiently on his paws. Maybe I could negotiate a condition. I ghosted across camp and ended at Maria's side. The sound of Palo's oversized paws was close behind me.

"Any news, soldad?" She eyed me expectantly.

I nodded once. "I can track him, but there's one problem."

"And what is that."

"Palo's odor."

Maria raised her eyebrow, willing me to continue.

"It's masking the other scents with its overwhelming stink." I ensured to put a little sting in my words. Palo growled in warning as I continued. "It would be easier to continue without his company. I know you're worried about my running off again, but if you'd at least allow me to replace Palo with Victoria, I might be able to lock onto what I need."

I'd always been a smooth talker. Even Maria had a hard time not listening to my words. She glanced at Victoria and then turned her gaze appraisingly to me. The wheels were turning quickly beneath her cobalt tresses. I stood by patiently, awaiting an answer.

"Bueno," Maria nodded. "Victoria will accompany you in the place of Palo. You've proven yourself to be a little more trustworthy these past few days. Even still, do not attempt to escape."

The last line of her words did not issue from her lips, but rather in my mind. I shook my head a little at the cloudy feeling of my thoughts being rearranged against their will. After the past few months, I was so used to Maria's presence in my mind that, at the time, I didn't really think anything of it. Instead, I nodded in obedience and signaled with a jerk of my head for Victoria to follow. Her upper lip pulled back a little in disgust at this task. She hated the idea of working with a Cullen. If I wasn't so focused on the task at hand, I might have been amused. We stopped just outside the meeting tent so I could pick up the trail once more.

"What exactly is the plan?" She queried in her girlish voice as she folded her arms.

"The plan," I uttered as I brushed my fingers across the tarp and rubbed them together, "is for you to keep your yap shut and let me do my job. Think you can handle that?" As a human, I'd been gentleman to any and all women as a rule, but in this life not all women needed protection. Victoria was just another enemy in my eyes.

I glanced in her direction out of the corner of my eye just in time to catch her cold glare. I didn't have time to play her games. My attention returned to the task at hand, brushing her presence aside. Now that the mongrel wasn't nearby, it was much easier to pick out the different scents in the area. I closed my eyes for a moment and closed down my other senses. My mind blocked off all the other scents and, one by one, narrowed it down to the one I was seeking. My eyes snapped open all of a sudden, and I tore off into the trees. Victoria snarled a little in annoyance and followed.

As I ran, it was almost like certain portions of the forest were lit up by an invisible light. He'd left a lot of traces behind as he tried to escape. I came to a full stop in a clearing. The sun came through the opening and glittered brightly off of my skin. Victoria opened her mouth to speak. My hand shot up rapidly in an annoyed gesture, signaling silence. Her lips pursed together as she placed her hands indignantly on her hips. My crimson orbs flitted to and fro about the soil. His footprints were scattered. He was confused on which direction to go. I knelt down and traced the outline of his shoeprint with a finger before lifting it to my nose. It was fresh by at least half an hour.

"Well?" Victoria uttered in annoyance.

"He knows he's being tracked," I voiced in a low tone. "He had difficulty deciding which direction to go in at first, and then he ran about to purposefully throw me off."

"So the great Jasper has lost the trail," She trilled in her soft voice.

My eyes landed on her with harshness. "He went east. I never said I lost it, merely that he attempted to throw me off. When I want your commentary, I shall ask for it."

Without so much as another word, I blurred away in the direction of our intruder, once more following the seemingly lighted trail. Every spot he touched stood out to me more so than the rest of the forest. It was a sixth sense that all vampires had, but one that not all fully mastered. It took a lot of concentration to intelligently track someone down, especially when it was not a human being hunted. Thankfully, I had a century's worth of experience to go on.

The trail went cold once more near the river. Victoria leaned moodily against the tree, her vermillion tresses blowing gently in the breeze as she watched with hatred. This newborn was clever enough to scatter his tracks. I'd never seen the like in a new vampire. Normally, they were so driven with thirst that they could scarcely hold themselves together. Someone had clearly taken the time to work with this one. I crouched on the bank of the river. If I were a newborn stealing top secret plans from one of the most dangerous leaders of the times, where would I go? My fingers traced a pattern in the moss as my eyes scanned the water. My raptor acute vision locked in on a tree growing on the opposite bank. In a blur, I'd jumped the rather wide distance and placed a hand on the sapling. Tangled in the spiky lower branches was a piece of shredded cloth. I swiped it from its entrapment and held it up to my nose. Sure enough, it belonged to our intruder. He was getting clumsy.

"This way," I uttered to Victoria before taking off into the topiary beyond.

I could hear her footsteps speeding behind me trying to catch up, but I didn't slow down. Every second we paused, the trespasser gained more ground while we fell behind. I'd endure much worse than Nadia if I let him escape. On and on this silly cat and mouse hunt went until finally his scent was intensified by leaps and bounds. We were so deep in the forest that the sunlight could no longer penetrate the thick branches of the trees. To a human, it would be nearly impossible to see through the gloom, but neither I nor Victoria had such difficulty.

I studied the dirt with careful eyes and laid my hand upon the nearest timber. My brow furrowed as I sniffed the air. "He's here," I murmured.

"Are you certain?" Victoria had ceased being poisonous towards me for the moment. We both had a job to do.

"Yes."

I knew he was here. My subconscious mind had a way of figuring out puzzles on its own before I could even comprehend them consciously. It was part of what made me so dangerous. On top of that, I sensed a slight fear that didn't originate from Victoria. I held up a hand, once more signaling for silence. I closed my eyes, turning all of my concentration towards my sense of hearing. A light zephyr seemed to be moving through the trees. I recognized the sound. It was one of our kind ghosting about. As soon as my hearing had locked onto the being, my eyes snapped open and followed the sound. Still, I could see nothing. What sorcery was this? It finally clicked after my mind was given a few moments to sort it out. Our intruder was invisible. To my advantage, however, he was also frightened. It seemed he wasn't so different from the rest of the newborns.

I settled calm upon the surrounding area and heard the boy stop in his tracks. "You have something that belongs to me," I spoke gently. My voice held a sort of magic all its own. It had always persuaded easily, even in life. In death, its ability to draw people in was even stronger, aided naturally by the gift I'd learned to use so well. Some days, I didn't even need to use my ability to break someone down. All I had to do was speak.

The boy neither uttered a sound nor moved. I took a few steps forward towards the spot in which he stood. "So invisibility, is it?" I continued in my deep, lulling tone, "That's a rather unique quality. I don't believe I've run across a vampire with such a gift before." Still, the boy did not respond. I stopped halfway to him. "You seem to be highly intelligent. You were smart enough to at least attempt covering your tracks. I'd hate to kill you. If you don't give me what I want, I'll have to do so."

The boy ghosted to a nearby tree. I gave a sideways smirk. He knew he was cornered.

"You couldn't kill me if you wanted to," the boy shouted down to me.

"Why don't you come down here, and we'll talk about it?"

"There is nothing to say."

I changed my tactics. "What's your name, boy?" My true age showed through the young exterior.

"Jonathan," he answered. I could tell in his voice that he was very young, no older than twelve, I should say.

"Jonathan," I repeated smoothly. Now that I had him talking, it would only be a matter of minutes. I clasped my hands behind my back and took a few steps. "Why are you here? There are plenty of other mischievous things you could be up to with a gift like yours."

"I'm being tested," he answered in an authoritative voice. He was arrogant. It would lead to his undoing.

"Tested how?" I turned my eyes to where I knew he sat. He ghosted away again, finding another perch. Victoria listened intently, waiting patiently until she was needed.

"If I return with the plans, I'll be allowed to stay."

"Is that what your creator told you?"

"Yes," Jonathan continued. "He was very keen on understanding the situation."

His creator was a man; that was at least something. "What situation is that?"

"I don't believe I should say."

"You can't hide from me, Jonathan. I have a special gift of my own. It would be a shame to do this the hard way."

Silence thickly blanketed the air as he computed my words. After a few moments of indecision, his form slowly melted into view. Inwardly, I was glad of success, but outwardly, my expression didn't change a bit. Jonathan was at least a head shorter than I with a thin yet strong build. He had reddish blonde hair that told of days spent in the sunlight growing up. I imagined that in life he'd once had freckles, but they were gone now, smoothed over by sleek, vampiric skin. He wore a black trench coat over black jeans and a blue T-shirt. A chain was just visible around his neck, disappearing beneath the fabric of his Tee. Beneath his arm was the leather folder that contained all of Maria's notes.

"If I give you the notes, will you let me go?" He queried. I could see the fear in his eyes. Once again, self preservation outweighed the orders of a master.

"Of course," I lied smoothly, instilling trust in him. I hated to lie to the boy, but I had a job to do. My own self preservation was greater than my sympathies. If I didn't survive, I would never see Alice again.

Jonathan seemed to take my words into consideration. After a few moments, he slowly began to creep from his perch. "Well played… for a Cullen," Victoria worded quietly. I could tell she was astounded, but I didn't voice this aloud. I had more important things to do then make snide remarks.

Jonathan took a few tentative steps in my direction. "It's alright," I assured him.

He eyed Victoria. "She frightens me. Make her leave."

I smirked. "She does have that effect on people." Victoria growled as I met her gaze. "At least back away a good distance," I ordered gently.

Still snarling a little, Victoria slowly began to back away giving me a wide berth. I turned my gaze back to the boy. He was inching ever closer. If I made any sudden movements he'd try to run and I'd have to start all over again. "That's it… easy does it," I encouraged. Every second seemed hours. I waited patiently despite this. Tentatively, his arm crept forward holding the plans out to me. Only a few more centimeters; there!

Swiftly, I snatched the plans and tossed them rearward to Victoria, snapping the boy's head off in the same movement .The chain that had been around his neck landed in the dirt a few feet away. Fluidly, I pulled a lighter I'd stolen from a recent victim out of my back pocket and lit the remains of the young boy. It was a pity that it had to come to this, but I couldn't risk allowing an enemy to escape. Logically, it didn't make any sense to let him live. My knowledge of this fact didn't make remembering his momentary pain any easier. It settled a slight guilt in my soul, but swiftly, the feeling faded.

A glint of silver caught my eye. My orbs landed expeditiously upon the chain Jonathan had been wearing. It gleamed in the light from the fire that now licked his body. Curiously, I ghosted to it for a closer look. My brow pulled together as I stared down at the jewelry. There was a pendant on the end. I couldn't make it out at first, for it was turned over and buried in the foliage. Fueled by the desire to know what I was dealing with, I plucked the adornment from the shrub and slowly turned it over. My breath stilled for a moment as I recognized the symbol that had hung around the boy's neck. Anger filled me and my gaze locked on Victoria. So that's what Maria was up to.

"Did you recover the plans," Maria queried innocently as I entered the meeting tent. She'd been conversing with Palo who was once more in his human form.

With a stoic face, I slid the plans across the smooth surface of the table. They stopped just in front of her. "Muchos gracias, mi amor," she smiled. "Now we are not compromised."

"I think it's about time you told me what the devil is goin' on," I stated, my accent stronger in its irritation.

"The same as always," Maria assured. "We are trying to protect our feeding grounds."

"Don't lie to me." My voice was dangerous.

"What has gotten into you, soldad? You are usually so composed."

I pulled the boy's ornament from my pocket and slammed it angrily on the table. Every person in the tent jumped. The Volturi crest sat visibly upon the glossy surface for all to see. "I'm not ignorant," I worded in a voice of forced calm as my heated glare met her gaze. "This war you're starting is unwinnable. I advise you back out now before you get us all killed."

"Nothing is unwinnable, mi amor. Besides, I have something they don't have."

"And what is that?"

"I have you."

I stared icily at my commander. If she thought I would have anything to do with this, she was out of bounds. "Not anymore," I retorted, turning to storm out of the tent.

"If you value the life of your precious Alice, I don't think you'll want to be doing that."

I stopped in my tracks. It took a moment to word my response. "Who's Alice?"

"Don't play dumb with me. Nadia isn't just being punished for the escape of the boy."

I was silent as I met my captor's gaze over my shoulder.

"It would be such a pity if anything were to happen to your wife."

"You don't know where she is." My voice was slightly shaken.

"I know how to find her." Maria made sure to enunciate each word slowly and clearly.

My lips pursed together. I didn't want to risk Alice's life, but I didn't want to risk my life for an impossible task either. Growling in annoyance, I departed from the crude tent.

"Don't wander off," Maria trilled in her delicate voice.

My feet seemed filled with lead as I walked away from camp and into the surrounding trees to think. So, Maria was after the Volturi, but to what end? She wouldn't be the first to attempt an attack against them. Even if we had a large army, we couldn't expect to defeat them. I sighed in exasperation and leaned moodily against a tree. How did I get out of it this time?

"It's not that bad," A voice echoed beside me. As my eyes turned towards it, Alice misted into being and placed a hand on my shoulder.

"Yes it is," I disagreed. "Death is unavoidable if I go through with it."

"You're already dead, silly."

"Destruction, mutilation, however you put it, it equals me ceasing to exist." I argued, walking deeper into the trees.

"Not necessarily. You're smart. You've evaded them multiple times before."

"Yes, but that was before I was actually trying to end them."

"Shh," Alice cooed. She now stood in front of me with her hand on my cheek, stilling my feet in their worried movement. "It's going to be alright."

"Is it really?"

She nodded and gently pressed her lips to mine. A tingly feeling traversed my body and suddenly the world disappeared.

The airport terminal was crowded beyond belief, and yet I didn't feel thirsty as I searched the millions of faces wondering where I was. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion around me. How had I gotten here? As I surveyed the crowd, I realized that they couldn't see me. My brow knit in confusion. Nadia wasn't anywhere nearby. How was this happening? "I haven't seen a single thing all week," Alice's voice complained over the throng of humans. My head snapped around to see her sitting beside Edward in one of the many chairs set about the terminal. Where precisely were they? I glanced about. All the signs were blurry to my vision. I growled lightly in annoyance and watched my wife and brother with longing.

"Relax, Alice," Edward soothed in a gentle voice as he poured over a travel brochure. "We'll find him."

"I don't know where to go next. The last glimpse of him was too dark to decipher. We have nothing more to go on."

Edward sighed and looked up into her anxious face. "We have all of eternity to find him. If that's how long it takes, then that's how long we'll search. You'll have another vision. It's inevitable."

Alice groaned in exasperation and held her head in her hands. "But what if I don't?"

My heart seemed to rip in two as I watched the scene unfold before me. Alice was never meant to feel this way, and it nearly killed me that I couldn't do anything about it. She muttered a stream of frustrated obscenities beneath her breath and sat up once more to observe the human's. I'd never seen such a distress painted so visibly upon the canvas of her face. "It's so easy for them," She breathed. "They're so unaware of the dangers surrounding their fragile beings. Life is so much less complicated that way."

Edward merely stared at Alice with concern present on his brow.

Suddenly, she gasped . I recognized the glassy look to her eyes. What was she seeing? Edward's face became a mask of confusion as he watched the vision unfold in her mind. Guilt flooded me as I realized what they must be seeing. Alice winced a little. I stood by curiously, unseen and unheard. After a lapse of time that felt longer than eternity, they both returned to the present.

"Did you see the crest on that chain," Alice whispered urgently.

Edward nodded with eyes far off in thought. "This doesn't bode well."

"If he's caught, they'll kill him without question."

"We're not going to let that happen."

"We're already running out of time! I'll get the tickets, you call the family," Alice commanded swiftly. Without another word spoken between them, Alice departed from her seat for the ticket counter. All I once, I felt the sensation of falling.

The woods misted into view all around me. I was staring up at the canopy instead of through the trees. There wasn't time to be confused. Before I could stop myself my body rolled, and I wretched upon the forest floor. A few deep breaths pulled at my lungs before I spat to the side. I collapsed away from the crimson puddle of sick and closed my eyes with a grimace. I felt worse than I had the time previously, but I didn't mind. It was all worth it to see Alice's precious face. She hadn't given up on me yet. Hope flooded my being. I'd found a loop, and Alice finally knew where I was.