We are no longer moving silently. I know that I would be able to track us just from the sound of our feet on the road. Still, when Aaron calls out again I’m shocked that they haven’t moved.
I stop and look in the direction Max came from.
“Are you alone?” Aaron cries again.
Max and Conor have stopped a little away from me and both are gesturing me to join them. I hold up my hand as if to say wait a minute. Then I gesture them over. Leaning into Max I whisper into his ear.
“Tell them you are still alone.”
Max looks at me with some confusion but does as I ask. “Yes, I’m alone.”
“What’s that?” Aaron cries.
I gesture to Max to repeat it but louder. He does.
“So you have no Bitsy with you?”
I roll my eyes. As if he would admit to that.
“No,” Max calls back.
I can hear the two talking to each other. Max starts to say something but I shush him. Instead I concentrate on the quiet words.
“You go check,” I hear Aaron order Colin.
“Because I say so and if you don’t then you will have a real problem…” Aaron says and I wonder what he is holding over Colin’s head.
“Fine.” I hear Colin walking over.
“Colin’s coming this way,” I say to Max. “You two hide and I’ll talk to him.”
“Why you?” Max asks.
I look at him and I can see just how angry he is. “If you see Colin can you guarantee that you won’t hurt him?”
Max looks away. “I can’t.”
“So it has to be me.”
Conor takes my hand. “Don’t worry,” I say. “Max and you will save me if anything happens.”
He nods and I look at Max. He leans forward and places a chaste kiss on my lips. “Always,” he rumbles. I smile.
I can hear Colin, he is getting closer. “Hide,” I say to the guys and silently they jog toward an abandoned shop. The door has been prised open and the inside is dark, giving a perfect place to hide and watch. At one time it would have been a local shop, selling everything from dusters to cereal, but now it is just an abandoned shell.
They disappear inside and are swallowed by the darkness just as Colin comes around the corner. He looks the wrong way at first and I notice that he is tugging at the neck of his t-shirt.
“Hey,” I say.
He jumps and then sees me. Slowly he walks over. “You alone?”
I nod. “I am.”
“I could…” he looks back the way he came.
“Snatch me? Drag me back to Aaron?”
Colin shakes his head. “I wish I could come with you.”
Slowly Colin pulls back his t-shirt. There along his collar bone is a wound. It is mostly healed but it still looks sore. “What is it?”
“As soon as we arrived and split they started to act weird.” Colin looks back.
“He hasn’t moved,” I say.
“How do you know?” he asks.
“I can hear him… I could hear everything,” I say.
Colin looks at me sharply. “You can hear at those distances?”
“So what happened when we split at the WHO?” I ask.
“You will let me know if he comes this way?” Colin asks.
“We were shown into a room, like a canteen. Conor asked to go to the toilet and a woman took him. I didn’t see him after that.” He looks worried.
“Conor’s with Max.”
“You got him out?”
I just smile.
“So,” Colin continues. “We got split and after Conor was taken the military guys, Beetle and Judge, asked us to follow them. We did. I mean, I didn’t even question it. Then they say to Aaron – was the mission successful?” He stops and looks at me. His face is so full of sorrow I want to hug him. He takes a step back, away from me.
“He was working for them, and I had no idea. I just followed. Judge looked at Aaron and he shrugged. Then he said that it had been mostly successful.”
Colin looks away and I really want to hug him.
“Come with us,” I say.
“I can’t,” he says and I see that he is crying. “I have to go back.”
“They put a bomb in me. If I run they will detonate it.”
I shake my head. “The scientists said they didn’t have any technical stuff.”
I sigh. He is right, they had lied from the moment they had got us inside the building. “What do they want with us?”
“To become like us. But not. They want to harvest our blood.”
“If you go back they will hook you up to a machine,” I say, feeling pale and shaky.
“Yes,” Colin says.
I can hear Aaron moving around. He is pacing, but getting no closer.
“What about Aaron?” I ask.
“I don’t know. Aaron seems to think that he will escape being harvested, but I don’t think so. He won’t listen though.”
“What do you want me to do?” I ask.
“Run. Get away.”
“But what about you?” Tears are falling down my face.
“Turn more, make a camp and then come and get us. They will turn on him. I can’t leave him…”
In the distance Aaron takes a step toward us.
“He’s moving this way,” I say.
Colin takes a step back. “You find somewhere safe and then come and rescue us.”
“I’ll rescue you,” I say.
“Both of us,” he says. “Please.”
I reluctantly nod.
“And if I am gone, you save Aaron.”
I look away.
“Please,” he says.
“Yes,” I say quietly.
I turn back when I hear him running, but he’s already gone. I didn’t even say goodbye. In the distance I hear him catch up to Aaron.
“Can’t find him.” Colin says.
There is silence. “We better go back then,” Aaron says.
“We could run,” Colin suggests.
“They will only hurt you.”
“And you are fine with that,” Colin says and his voice is full of grief.
Aaron doesn’t answer.