Timothy Carter's steps slowed to a stop, a frown materializing on his face as the boy realized his predicament.
"Wait!" He turned, rushing back to the converted storeroom, "Wai-"
The building was empty, save for a stack of filthy dishes atop a sagging wooden table, and the lone boy at the doorway. Timothy nudged the door wider with a hand, peering deeper into the storeroom.
"Hello?" He called again, his voice wavering in the shadows, "Is anybody there?"
"Twilight?" Timothy continued, "Pinkie? Anyone?"
The rumble of an engine starting pierced through the air, followed by the groans of the cracked asphalt underneath tires. The boy's eyes widened as he turned, catching sight of a car rolling off into the distance. "WAIT!" He yelled, taking off after the vehicle, "WAIT FOR ME!"
A tranquil silence once again overtook the air, the last of the car's noise fading away over the horizon. Timothy's steps slowed. "Please..." He whispered, staring at where the vehicle had been moments prior, "Please don't leave me here..."
Clack. Clack. Clack. Crumble. Clack. Clack. Clack. Crumble. Clack. Clack. Clack. Crumble.
"Hey. You lost or something?" A gravelly voice uttered from behind the boy.
Timothy looked away from the stack of cobblestones, staring towards the heavy-coated man from before.
The man's attention turned to the half-stack of misshapen stones, and the residual gravel from prying them up. "You know," He began, a hint of irritation in his raspy voice, "I don't believe you're allowed to do that. These are privately-funded roadways."
Timothy groaned, shoving the stones back into the pothole that they came from. "Does it even matter anymore?" He asked, glancing again to the heavy-coated man, "Everyone else is back in their simulations, so what's the point about worrying for the road?" He paused for a moment, squinting at the man. "What I want to know is why you are here. Shouldn't you already be gone with all those other guys?"
The heavy-coated man shook his head, motioning to the briefcase beside him. "Can't leave yet." He grumbled, "I've still got work to do. Most of these people can't reconnect automatically, so I've got quite a few housecalls to make." The man turned away, grunting as he leaned over to grab his briefcase. "Anyhow," He continued, "As I was asking earlier, are you lost, kid?"
"Y-yeah..." Timothy squeaked, making way for the man. "I came to this place with the other volunteers."
Timothy paused for a moment. "Um... Snowbush." He responded, "I came here with Lisa Garnet, a... close friend of mine."
The man nodded, straightening back out with a sickening crack from his spine. "Yes, I remember Lisa." He began, walking off onto the streets, "She's a smart one, I'll give her that. She's Argall's kid, ain't she?"
"Whuh?" Timothy trailed off. "Hey! Wait up!" He shouted, dashing after the man as he knocked on a door across the street. "What do you mean, Argall's kid?"
The man ignored the question, standing quietly at the door.
"Come in!" A quiet voice called from within."
"I said," Timothy continued, "What do you mean by Argall's kid?"
"Nothing, nothing." The heavy-coated man waved off the question as the door opened. "Here kid, come in. I'll show you how these machines work, and once I'm done with everybody here, I can take you back to Snowbush. Alrighty?"
"Wait, but I--"
The man shot a soft glare at Timothy, putting his finger to his lips. "We'll talk about it later, 'kay?"
Timothy nodded slowly, following the heavy-coated man through the door.
The frigid, nighttime air swirled about the two as the heavy-coated man gently shut the final door. "There." The man sighed, collapsing with a huff onto the stairwell, "That's the last one."
Timothy stared off into the milky darkness of the sky, before turning his attention back to the man. "So..." He began, "What did you mean earlier?"
"What did what mean earlier?" The man frowned, returning Timothy's stare.
"Y'know, about Lisa being Argall's kid."
The heavy-coated man paused, mouthing out an "Oh" as he glanced back to the door they had emerged from moments prior. He shook his head. "Ah, it's really nothing you should be bothered with." The man replied, "Just a respected colleague and his adoptive daughter."
An air of silence fell over the two as the boy attempted to process the man's words. "So..." Timothy mumbled, "Lisa was... adopted?"
The heavy-coated man shrugged. "Beats me. I don't go poking around Argall's life, y'know. I just listen to other people's gossip."
Timothy sighed, slumping on the steps. Far down the road, the first streetlight alit, casting a blazing yellow hue over the cracked asphalt.
"So." The heavy-coated man began slowly, smacking his lips in the dry air. "You want me to drive you anywhere? Get you reconnected or something?"
The boy shook his head. "Nah," Timothy chirped, "I think I'll try and find my friends."