Lukas regained consciousness slowly; and found himself swimming in a turgid sea of pain.
'Lukas! Lukey!' Dimly, the combined voices of MacKenzie and Helen permeated his sluggish consciousness. He groaned, a soft noise that was lost in the din around him.
Something hard impacted heavily against his side, sinking onto the flesh between pelvis and lower ribs. The sudden dull pain had the effect of dragging him to something approaching wakefulness, and he instinctively tried to roll, drawing his legs up towards his chest.
Another stabbing pain, and he realized that his legs were trapped, under something heavy and unyielding. Forcing his eyes open, he attempted to see what was obstructing his movement. For a moment, that stretched, he was unable to see through the confused maelstrom of legs that flowed across his vision.
'Lukas!' This time the dual-voices were clearer; louder; fraught with worry.
'I'm here.' Lukas sent the words limping upon their way. Almost instantly, he sensed the relief in the others.
'Thank heavens.' Helen's thought was a heartfelt warmth. 'Is Roger okay?'
At the Mention of Bennet's name, Lukas knew suddenly, why he couldn't move his legs. Memories, images, crashed back into his mind; battering their way to the forefront of his brain.
'Oh.., Oh god. No.' Lukas knew that Helen saw, as well as he. A flash of red light; Roger pushing him out of the way. The wet, sticky warmth of blood, as the bullet intended for Lukas struck the big man instead.
'I..,' Lukas blinked; tried again. 'I don't know, sis. He... He saved my life. He's here, but he's..,'
'God damn.' A voice, that took him a moment to register as belonging to Roger Bennet's, cut across the confused babble of panic-stricken voices. 'Fuck. That hurts.' The weight across his lower legs lessened slightly. 'You okay, Lukas?'
'Think so.' Lukas replied cautiously. 'You?'
'Lukas? Is that Roger? Is he all right? What...'
'Shh. He's fine. Give me a minute.' Lukas tried, not altogether successfully, to tune his sisters insistent thoughts from his mind. He looked down, towards the source of the voice.
'I'll live. We need to get you out of here.' The weight on his legs lifted, and, moments later, Bennet emerged from the gloom. A small hole, ringed with blood, marred the blue material of his shirt near the joint of his shoulder and right arm. All traces of joviality had disappeared from the engineers face, as he scowled up at the milling crowds around them. 'We stay here; we're gonna get trampled,' he muttered. 'Can you stand up?'
'With help.' Lukas nodded. Moments later, Lukas felt himself lifted, as a massive arm encircled his waist. The medium swayed, and attempted to take most of his weight onto his good leg.
Another sharp report cracked like a whip across the confused mayhem. Several women close by screamed hysterically, and someone, man or woman, it was impossible to tell, roared their agony in a yell so bestial, it was more animal than human. Another crack; another. Then all that could be heard was the mindless babble of those around them.
'We need to keep low.' Roger said. 'Just in case the bastard's tracking this area. Might have a night scope.' They began to move slowly, away from the stage area. Roger stumbled, and gave vent to a sharp hiss; anger laced with pain.
'Roger-,' He began to say, but the big man silence him with a wave of a large hand.
'Later.' They began to move. 'We need to get out of here first.'
Keeping low, they made their cautious way towards the approximate area they remembered the rest of the group to have been. Nestled in the lee of the big man's arm, Lukas allowed himself to be half-carried, half-dragged through the crowd; the enormous frame of the engineer forcing his way through the confused mass of bodies like a destroyer ploughing through a heavy sea.
'A rifleman.' Lukas muttered disbelievingly. 'Here - a sniper.' He shook his head. 'You saved me. How did you know?'
'Served in the army.' Bennet said tersely. 'Learned my trade in there; and a few other things besides.' He grunted a laugh. 'I couldn't believe it myself, when I saw the laser sight tracking you. Took me a second to remember what it was.'
'It's just as well you did.' Lukas said with feeling. 'How bad are you hurt?'
'Bullet got me high in the shoulder; went right through.' Bennet paused for a moment, to get his bearings. 'There's blood; but I'll live. Thing is though, why you? I can't believe anybody hates you or your show enough to try and kill you. Just unlucky, I suppose; wrong place, wrong time.'
'Yeah; I suppose.' Lukas agreed. His thoughts however, were anything but in agreement. He knew now, that the first shot had been meant for him. Somewhere nearby, David Jackinson, and through him - through his eyes, his mind - the Al'urion, wanted him dead.
With him or one of the girls dead, he thought, there was nobody left to oppose them. That would be why the shots had stopped, for the time being. Jackinson had lost him in the crowd. How long had he been waiting, secure and hidden, waiting for one of them, any of them, to come in range of his weapon? What would he - they - do next?
Jackinson was a policeman, Lukas recalled. He could be anywhere; scanning the crowds through the sights of his weapon. The Al'urion thrived on fear; well there was plenty of that around at the moment. How long would it be, before they decided that they wanted more? Then, Lukas thought, the shooting would begin anew; an indiscriminate slaughter to feed their sick appetites.
The thought was enough to rouse Lukas to a level of anger he did not know he possessed. If there was a way to stop this, to stop the killing, then he would do whatever it took.
'Look, and see.'
Even through the commotion around him, Mentor's quiet, calm thought rang through his mind with crystal clarity.
'Remember the gift.'
'What gift?' He muttered.
Roger paused, and looked down at him. 'You okay, Lukas?'
The medium did not hear him. Mentor's last words to him had struck a chord, deep within his psyche, and reverberated; pounding against the walls of his conscious mind.
'Look and see.' He muttered, slowly. 'Look and see.' Then his eyes widened, and he straightened, twisting.
'Damnation!' Roger snarled. 'Keep your head down, Lukas!' He pulled at the medium.
Lukas ignored the big man. His attention was riveted upon the Ashton Memorial, fifty yards away. He stared, captivated by the sight.
The top third of the Memorial, the tower and dome, was almost completely obscured. Like a lowering cloud, the highest points were wreathed in vaporous shapes, a nebulous mist; that shifted constantly. As he gazed, awestruck, at the spectacle, Lukas sensed-felt, the almost imperceptible shifting of physical and metaphysical matter around him; that signified the functioning of his ability; missing from his mind for so long.
So thickly massed were the ghosts, it was impossible for Lukas to make out any specific details. Some were so transparent as to be barely visible, whilst others might have been mistaken for actual people, were they not floating high above the crowds. They had to number in their thousands, he estimated; they formed a writhing mass that swirled around and through the dome. As Lukas watched, it struck him that they somehow moved as if drawn; attracted by something, or someone, inside the dome. Then, instinctively, he knew.
He knew where Jackinson was. Given the surroundings, where else could he be?
'Helen; MacKenzie.' Lukas reached inwards, towards the twin essences of the two women. 'I need you.'
'At last.' Even through her thoughts, there was little disguising the worry in his sister's words. 'What's happening over there? Are you both all right?
'We're both fine. Roger's bleeding, but he's more annoyed than hurt, I think.'
'Sis; we don't have time for this. I know where Jackinson is. He's killing people We need to do this now.'
'Do? Do-,' He felt his sister get a grip of herself. 'Okay. What do you need?'
'I'm here Lukas.' Lukas allowed himself to relax, just a little, at hearing the cool calmness of MacKenzie's thought.
'Okay; good.' Lukas gasped aloud, as a sudden jolt of pain spasmed along his leg. 'Damn; give me a minute or two. I can hardly think straight. I need to concentrate. Be ready.'
He turned, and faced Roger Bennet. 'Roger; I'm sorry.' He said through gritted teeth. 'I need to take the weight off this leg; just for a minute. Can we find somewhere I can sit down? Please?
'What?' Bennet's face creased in puzzlement. 'You want to-,' He sighed, and looked around. 'Okay. Over here.' He nodded, indication an area to their right. Together, they eased through the lessening mass of people.