The first thing I notice as we near where Max fell behind are voices. I recognise them.
“I need to stay,” Max says.
I stand a street away, the gone in my hand forgotten, Conor next to me as we listen.
“I have to go back,” Colin says.
“Come with us,” Aaron says.
“Bitsy,” Max sighs my name.
“They might let her go if you come with us,” Aaron says, but I can hear the lie in his voice. I just hope Max can.
“Really?” he says and I can tell that he is still under the effects of the drugs. I start forward and Conor holds me back.
“Don’t leave me,” he whispers.
“Never,” I say.
“Come with us and they will be left,” Aaron says.
I wonder if he was on the other side all this time. I suppose we ought to have been suspicious, finding a pilot and a helicopter at so convenient a time. I shake my head at our naiveté. But when did Colin become allied with them?
“Why?” Max asks, and it is almost as if he has read my mind.
“Leave her?” Aaron asks.
“No, why are you helping them?”
“I was always helping them,” Aaron says. “I was meant to bring you here. Once Bitsy made that call we knew we had to get you here.”
“To become lab rats,” Max spits. “And you?”
I realise that he must be asking Colin.
“It seemed the best. We can’t beat them.”
I frown at that. We are more than the humans. And I don’t want to beat them. I just want to co-exist. We are no threat to them; I mean they are poisonous to us.
“Why do we need to beat them?” Max asks, and from the strain in his voice I know he is getting to his feet.
“They can’t let us live. We are monsters…” Colin says, and by doing so I realise he has just told Max that it won’t make any difference what he does. They are going to hunt us down.
“I don’t suppose you’ll give me a head start?” Max asks.
I wait. There is silence and I wonder what is going on. I look around. We are standing in the street and totally exposed. Conor is glancing up and down the street and I can tell he is anxious and afraid.
“Come on,” I say and I drag the gone to the buildings in front of us, a series of houses. I notice that three doors down a curtain twitches, but I ignore it.
Placing the gone on the pavement I pull Conor into the shadow of a terrace. I crouch near the front wall.
“Okay,” Aaron suddenly says. “But they will send us out for you.”
“Colin?” Max asks.
“Go. I can’t…” his voice fades out.
I hear Max stumbling away. The others don’t move. Instead, after a moment Aaron starts to count.
This is some sort of sick hide and seek.
Max is walking our way, I can tell that he is trying to pick up speed but his gait is more of a stumbling shuffle.
“Can we help?” Conor asks.
“No. He will be here in a moment.”
“Three… Really, Max, you want to stretch this out? Just give up…”
Max’s speed picks up. He comes around the corner and stops. I know he can smell me but he seems to be putting on a show. He finally starts walking towards us. He places a finger to his lips, the universal sign for silence. I nod and motion to the gone. He gives a grin and picks up the limp body.
He drops the drained body and stretches. He’s regained a lot of his movement, but I can see that Colin and Aaron have added to his bruises. He gives a thumbs up and nods to the street. We start moving off, Conor and I trying to be silent.
“Five… Max are you still alone? I thought I heard someone else there?”
We all theree look at each other and break into a run.