Nancy cracked the door of the plane to peer out, and a medium-sized brown and white dog pushed its way through, opening the door and hopping down to the ground. It barked as it spotted them, the hair on its back prickling upward as it eyed the Brothers uncertainly.
Nancy looked equally uncertain when she saw them.
“Would you all mind standing back?” Mahender said to the brothers.
He knew what Nancy had been through, and what his brothers reminded her of, so he was always careful when he visited her with them.
The Brothers backed up, except for Falcon, who stood glancing uncertainly between Nancy and Mahender. Mahender nodded at him, and he stepped forward with the humans of the group. The dog trotted forward to greet the group, heading toward Sam and Lachlan. The two boys bent down to pet the dog.
“Aw!” said Jen. “Puppy!”
She crouched down to pet it too. Its tail swung wildly back and forth at all the attention.
Mahender had seen the dog a few times, usually from a distance. Once, it had even saved him from a particularly large sister. Usually, though, it gave him and his brothers a wide berth. He couldn’t exactly blame it.
He knew from his many conversations with her that Nancy loved dogs. She’d had pet dogs all her life, and it was one of the things she missed most about home. He wasn’t sure how the two had found each other, but he was glad.
“Mahender.” Nancy’s eyes widened as she took in the large group. “And Sam, and Lachlan, and… sorry, I can’t remember your name.”
Mona Aunty frowned.
“It’s Mona, ma’am.”
“Mona, right, of course,” said Nancy, “and… a lot of new faces too.”
Jen, Angelina, Naomi, and Chelsea introduced themselves. Falcon waved.
“Do you mind if one of my brothers comes forward with the group? This is Falcon. He’s deaf and needs a translator.”
“Of course,” said Nancy. “That’s fine.”
st63, the Brother with a skirt of tentacles stepped forward. The dog tucked its tail and made its way back to the plane, turning around to eye st63 suspiciously.
“It’s nice to meet you,” signed Falcon.
“Hello again,” said Lachlan.
“I’m always happy to have visitors,” said Nancy. “But to what do I owe this large crowd? I didn’t know this many people were stuck here.”
“Most of them got here fairly recently,” said Mona Aunty. “We’re here because one of these kids thinks she knows how to get home.”
Nancy stared at them for a few seconds. Then, she finally spoke.
“Yes, home. There aren’t any guarantees, of course. But she’s explained her reasoning to me, and the logic seems solid. This is the first time I’ve come across anything resembling a real chance at getting out of here, so I think we should take it.”
“Can I ask how we get home?”
“All we have to do is stand in a specific place at a specific time,” said Angelina. “If we all scrunch together, the hole that opens in reality should take us home.”
Nancy looked beyond the group at the Brothers standing there.
“And will… everyone here be going?”
Mahender looked back at the creatures he’d come to think of as his Brothers. He’d been so excited at the prospect of going home, of seeing his mum again, that the thought hadn’t even occurred to him.
“Our home is here,” said st98.
Mahender noticed Falcon fidgeting uneasily with his sleeve.
It seemed like Mahender wasn’t the only person who was conflicted.