Thursday, 12 November 2009 - 9:36 pm

Dark clouds

We’re fleeing northeast at the moment. Putting the road under our tyres and just driving, trying to put as much distance between us and Haven as possible. We’re not heading to the University, not until it’s safe. We don’t want to risk leading the cutouts there .

It’s not safe yet. We have to keep our heads down.

Which is where I got to yesterday.


We were crouching on the ground, trying to pretend that no-one could see us. It didn’t work.

“Leaving already?”

The voice came from over my head. I froze, imagining a gun pointing down at me along with the flashlight’s beam, about to spit bullets. We shouldn’t have come for the supplies. We should have gone straight to the vehicles. We might have made it out of there.

Then I recognised the voice. I frowned and pushed myself up onto my knees, squinting through the glaring light.


I heard a shifting behind me and Jersey’s grunt as she pushed her burden out of her way.

“You know him?” she asked.

It was definitely him. I couldn’t see most of his face through the glare, but I could make out the pale line of the scar on his jaw through the shadow of his beard. The confusion behind me was almost palpable – like me, the others were wondering if we were actually as caught as we thought we were. Was this a disaster or a deal to be made? They were looking to me and I was looking up at Jonah, trying to figure out what to say.

“What are you doing out here?” It was uninspired, but it was short notice. It’s not like I was prepared for this.

“I think that should be my question,” he said. “So you really are trying to leave. On foot?”

I opened my mouth to tell him no, then closed it again. We might be caught but the others weren’t. They could still get out of here clean. Don’t make it worse, Faith. Don’t tell him anything he doesn’t already know. “We’re leaving tonight,” I said instead. “Are you going to stop us?”


My heart thumped uncomfortably. Here we go. “On what?”

“On whether you have room for a few more.”

It wasn’t what I was expecting him to ask for. I glanced over my shoulder at the others and then got to my feet. The packs were heavy, biting into my shoulders, and I adjusted them to rest on my hips more comfortably. I could feel bruises forming already. The pair behind me got up as well, and I noticed that Jersey was blocking Iona with her body.

I swallowed when I saw the rifle in Jonah’s hands, though it was held casually and not pointing at us. Not an open threat but not reassuring either.

“…A few?” I asked.

That’s when I realised that the shape against the floodlight was still over by the edge of the buildings. It hadn’t been Jonah making that shadow at all – it was a friend of his.

“Four of us,” he said.

“Why do you want to leave?” That was Jersey, stepping up behind my right shoulder. I suddenly felt less alone and out on a limb, teetering.

“Why do you?” Jonah countered.

“Jonah, please,” I said. The last thing we needed was testosterone getting in the way here. Every second we stood here chatting might bring another party into play, and we were running out of possibly-sympathetic ones.

He sighed and looked me in the eye. “I told you – not everyone here agrees with the General’s policies. Some of us are unhappy enough to leave. If you’re going, we want to come. And you owe me.”

There it was. The marker called in at the worst possible moment. My stomach sank – he was making it hard to say no while my head was screaming for me to. He had only caught three of us – the others were safe. Dad, Matt, Thorpe, Dale, and Dan. They could still get away, free and clear. We’d work something out for the rest of us. What if I trusted Jonah and he betrayed us? Raised the alarm as soon as we were all together? What if this was all some elaborate scheme to snag all of the troublemakers at once?

Then Jonah gestured and one of his friends stepped up. The new cutout placed a box on the ground and flipped open the lid so a flashlight beam could show me what was inside. I recognised the contents immediately – I had spent long enough looking for it all. It was the stash that went missing from the infirmary.

You took it?” I couldn’t believe it. After all this time, it was him?

“I told you that I knew you and your friends were up to something.”

I didn’t know what to say next. He kept quiet. Took the food, hid it somewhere, and kept his mouth shut. Another secret he kept for me, another marker he was calling in. The pressure buzzed in my ears.

The decision was bigger than just me. I looked to the pair behind me for opinions, for help. Iona was as blank as ever. Jersey’s expression was closed and unhappy as she stepped forward. She held out her hands towards Jonah , offering a pack with one and an empty palm with the other.

“Swap you.” She nodded towards the gun.

Jonah hesitated, eyes narrowing, and looked at me. As ideas went, it wasn’t a bad one.

“Your friends too,” I said. “We have to know you won’t betray us.”

“How do we know you won’t just kill us?”

“You don’t,” Jersey said. “You wanna come, you hand those over.”

Jonah looked at us with an unhappy tilt to his lips, then made a gesture with his flashlight. Two more pairs of boots clomped over to us and he explained the situation.

The cutouts weren’t happy but they did give up their rifles. At a nudge from Jersey, they also gave up the handguns they had clipped to their belts. I’m glad one of us knew about those – I hadn’t noticed how many weapons they carried on them, and after it was pointed out, I wondered about combat knives and other small nasties tucked where we couldn’t see.

The soldiers were given our smelly packs to carry and then loaded up with the rest from the hiding place. Jersey and I had two rifles and two handguns each – neither of us felt comfortable putting weapons in Iona’s hands. It felt weird, holding guns and marching people along before us, as if we were the cutouts all of a sudden and they were prisoners. How did that happen?

Then I remembered the last time I held a weapon like this, the sharp crack and the perfect circle punched into Ben’s forehead. I almost dropped the rifle, my hands gone numb. I wrapped them around the damned thing instead, gripping tight enough to make them ache and staying well away from the trigger. It wasn’t the time for crippling sentimentality.


The cutouts gave us no problems and moved quietly enough. We watched them closely but nothing seemed out of place. That was almost suspicious in itself.

I thought we’d go to the back of the compound where the vehicles were hidden, but Jersey led me in the opposite direction. On the way, a small group of men sauntered across a courtyard near us. The floodlights showed them their way and we crouched down nervously just outside of the light, silently praying for ignorance. My pulse hammered at me to get up and run, just run away. I had to force myself to stay down, to keep still, trembling like a rabbit desperate to bolt.

I started second-guessing everything we were doing. Trying to get out of Haven, risking the lives of everyone I cared about. Agreeing to Jonah’s request. Then I heard laughter coming from the brothel rooms and fought back a wave of anger. That’s where those men were going. It pushed me on, determination rising above the drowning fear. That was a reason to go all on its own. The reminder was a blessing.

The revellers didn’t notice us. The cutouts didn’t betray us. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jonah and his boys kept silent because we hadn’t reached the other Seekers yet, but I wasn’t going to question our slender good fortune. I was taut with fraying nerves by the time we got up again to move on. I didn’t say anything; from the look on Jersey’s face, I wasn’t the only one regretting the decision to bring the cutouts with us.

We skirted the light like rats, skimming the well-travelled areas, and wound up near the front gates. A hiss from the side of the road pulled us over there before we came in sight of the sentry posts, drawing us down into a ditch that ran down towards the outer fence. Until we got there, I had no idea the gates had sentry towers, let alone ones that were manned at all hours. The gates were floodlit, brighter than the orange sunlight.

Suddenly there was another hurdle we had to get past: through the closed gates and out before the sentries could shoot us down. I could see the reason for our position: the closer we were to the exit, the less time the cutouts would have to react to the sounds of the engines starting. We needed all the headstart we could get. But we still had to get past them.

Nerves were curdling in my belly when we reached the others. Greetings were muted. Jersey and I offloaded our burdens, and gestured for the cutouts to do the same. I peered into the dark to take stock, and the nerves in my belly joined forces with a fearful snake. My friends peered back.

We had brought more and found less than was expected. Surprise and dismay flared in both halves of the group and I desperately tried to figure out who was missing.


We have to get our heads down. I’ll post more later.