“Are they gone?” Max asks. They have come out of the shop and are watching me.
I scrub at my face to stop the tears and nod. “He has something…” I can’t finish.
“I heard,” Max says and puts his arms around me. Conor does the same and I feel loved and safe.
“He wants us to rescue him,” I whisper.
“We can’t, not now.”
I want to argue with him.
“He won’t leave Aaron and what do we do with Conor? Take him to war?” Max asks.
“I know, but I feel so helpless.”
Max gives me one last squeeze and releases me. “I know.” One look at his face and I realise that he feels the same.
“What if we are never able…” Max stops me with a kiss.
“We will try,” he says, and I know that is all we can promise, but it feels as if my heart has stopped.
“We have to do it,” I say.
“We will,” Max promises but he looks at Conor as he says it.
Then I hear the sound of trucks in the distance. “We have to go.”
Max looks behind us.
“They didn’t believe Colin,” I say.
“Where are we going?” Conor asks.
Max looks at me and shrugs, but I give a small grin. “We are going to my place.”
Max blinks but I have already started to move off. Conor is walking with me, his hand clutched in mine. Max doesn’t waste time though, he simply picks Conor up and runs. I follow.
“We have to get out of Cardiff.”
“Which way? Max asks.
“North,” I say.
Then we are running, the wind wiping around me and drying my tears before they can fall to the ground. I can only hear our feet on the ground and I ignore the buildings as we pass. Max is talking to Conor but I don’t listen. Instead, all I can see is the scar on Colin’s neck. The guilt is horrendous. We’ve left him…
We run for a couple of hours before my stomach gives a growl. I slow.
He stops and lowers Conor to the ground.
“We can’t run all the way,” I say.
I look around and realise we must be near Swansea. “Because they are looking for two advanced humans. We need to blend it.”
“Act like the gone?” Conor asks.
I smile at the thought of us stumbling along. “No, more like survivors.”
“We are,” Max says.
He looks around. We have stopped on a section of the M4 and we are surrounded by cars. “You mean we ought to take a car.”
“Yep, and it will stop us eating so much…”
He looks at me curiously. “I’m starving,” I say, “and I’ve lost weight. Enough to notice. You have as well.”
We both look at Conor at the same time and I truly look at him. He seems ever so small, and is standing hugging himself. He needs time and attention, which I can’t give him if we are running.
He turns eyes that are red-rimmed to me and I see the heavy shadows under his eyes. When was the last time he ate? When did he last sleep?
Max lays a hand on his head. “Don’t worry. We are going to take care of you.”
Conor nods. “I’m hungry…”
“Let’s find a car,” I say, “and then some food.”
Briefly his eyes light up at the prospect of food.
“What kind of car?” Max asks.
“A 4×4 would be great. We are going to a smallholding, and there isn’t one there…” I don’t mention that the place has been empty for the last year. What would be the point? I just hope that it is okay. I have a caretaker who looks after the place and he had said the roof needed to be fixed. I’d given him the go ahead and as far as I’m aware everything ought to be fine. I had even been given before and after pictures.
“Will they trace you to it?” Max asks.
“The smallholding?” I think for a moment. I don’t think I have anything that refers to it. I shake my head. “I don’t think so. I was left it a year or so ago by a great aunt. She lived off the grid and there is only a track to it, which is why we need the 4×4.”
Conor has been turning in a slow circle. “What about that?” he asks and points to a landrover.
I give a grin. “That is perfect.”
Slowly we walk over to it. At first glance it seems fine. The doors are locked and there doesn’t seem to be anyone inside. That is, until we look in. Suddenly there is a growl and something jumps at the window, snapping. I see blackness and teeth before I stumble back.
“What is it?” I gasp.
“A dog,” Max says, and I notice that he is behind me.
“Can we keep it?” Conor asks and I look from the boy to the snarling creature trapped inside the car.
“I’m not sure it is a nice…”
I don’t get any more words out before Conor has zipped over to the car and opened the door. Despite all my super speed and abilities I am frozen as I watch Conor reach for the handle and pull on it. All I manage is an audible intake of breathe. The snarling creature is free, and it looks big and mean.
“Conor, be careful,” Max says behind me.
Be careful? I want to run…
Conor just smiles and steps from the doorway, allowing the dog to go free. For a moment the creature continues to snarl and then it stops. The moment it relaxes the dog looks more like a large black and tan teddy bear rather than a vicious hound from hell. He cocks his head to one side and studies Conor.
“Max?” I say and I can hear the quaver in my voice.
“It will be fine,” he says, but no sooner has he said it than the dog lunges forward.