I’d like to say that I open my eyes once we are in the air. I don’t. I wish I was more relaxed but I sit, hands claw-like and clenched around the armrests and eyes firmly closed.
“Max,” I hear Conor say at one point. “She is hurting the seat.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he says, but I try to relax. I try to.
When Colin informs us that he can see the WHO building I’m filled with relief. Of course that quickly gives way to terror as the helicopter starts to drop.
“Bitsy, we will be fine,” Max says, taking hold of my hand. I grip him and hold on as if he is my only lifeline.
As I feel the push of the ground I let out a sigh. I wonder how long I’ve been holding my breath. My head is a little dizzy so it could have been a while. Absently I make a note to time myself at some point. You never know when it might come in handy. I open my eyes and immediately close them again. We may have started the flight in semi-darkness but now the sun is shining brightly and my eyes sting at the brightness.
“I thought Wales was meant to be overcast,” I mumble.
Someone chuckles and I hear the door opening. Conor and Max leave. I slowly crack open my eyes and squint at the world. It is very green, and manicured… Of all the things I expected a rolling and trimmed lawn wasn’t one of them. I undo the seat belt and slowly stand. On wobbly legs I walk over to the others. They are all staring at a very large building.
“It’s very white,” Aaron says.
And it has a lot of glass. Max looks at me and holds out a hand. “Shall we knock?” I can’t think of a better idea. I take his hand, and Conor’s. Together we walk toward the building. As we near I can see that the doors are locked from the inside with what appears to a large chain and padlock. I wonder why they aren’t any guards when the ground in front of us spits dust.
“What?” I ask, but Max is already pulling me behind him and I automatically pull Connor.
“Shots,” he says.
I know why we don’t flash away but the temptation is there. We want to appear harmless and normal.
“Conor?” I whisper into his ear. “We need to pretend to be human.”
“Why?” he whispers back.
“Because we want them to like us and people can get scared and afraid if they see things that are different.”
Conor nods and tries to peek around Max.
Colin and Aaron have stopped just behind us. They have their hands raised as if we have been transported to an old western. I want to smile, but I know that if the snipers are good then a head shot will finish any one of us.
In the distance I hear an engine. I watch as a military SUV comes from around the back of the building. Inside I can see a driver and an armed man. He is clutching a gun to his chest.
“Bitsy, you sure about this?” Colin asks.
I don’t answer because I just don’t know. In front of me Max sighs. “We have no choice.”
Actually we do, but if we want to help at all then we have to do this. The vehicle stops in front of us and the soldier with the gun gets out. The driver follows. The soldier focuses his gun on Max.
“What do you want?” the driver asks. I notice that he gives us all a good look before going back to Aaron. I can understand that. Although he has changed his jumpsuit to a clean one it is still military issue.
“I contacted…” My voice goes dry as the gun moves and is focused on me. Somehow that small barrel expands. I wonder if I will die.
“Dammit, Beetle, shoulder that gun.” The driver pushes the gun so that the muzzle now points at the floor. “I’m sorry, miss, can you continue?”
I look at the face of the driver. He seems softer than Beetle. He gives a small smile. I take a deep breathe.
“I contacted the WHO about a cure,” I say.
The driver looks at me, a hard look. “Bitsy?”
I smile, and although I know it doesn’t reach my eyes it seems to reassure him.
“Do you have it with you?” he asks.
“Um… Sort of,” I say.
“What does that mean?” Beetle barks.
“We are the cure,” Max says. He doesn’t move but I can feel the confidence in him. Max knows he can handle this situation. I’m happy to hold Conor’s hand and let him take over. The guns are more scary than the gone.
“You took it,” the driver says. He sounds depressed.
“Yes,” Max says, “But he didn’t.” Max points at Aaron. “We infected him instead.”
“With the cure,” Max says. This has me a little worried. Max was making it sounds as if the cure was a disease. Which I suppose in a way it is.
“Come on then.” The driver gestures to the SUV. “Let’s go tell the researchers.
“You sure, Judge?” Beetle asks.
Beetle gives a small salute and we start to walk toward the SUV. If he were to smile and didn’t have the look of someone at war I might have thought him handsome. His dusty blonde hair and blue eyes ought to have been more appealing. Instead his gaze makes me feel like ants are crawling over me.
“You have a child?” Judge’s voice asks, surprised.
“Yes,” Max says, standing so that his view is blocked. “Conor.”
“And is he cured too?” Judge asks, but I can hear a cynical edge to his voice.
“Yes,” Aaron says.
I do notice though, as we get into the back, that Conor, Aaron and I are in positions that are easy to defend, Max and Colin taking the outside posts.
“Sorry about the cramped conditions,” Beetle says, not sounding the least bit sorry. “We will be there in a moment.