inbetween 103

The pod thrummed westwards. Behind them, the rising sun set the desert aglow; before them, dark shadows cast by the dunes rippled across the sand, black waves on a red sea. Raven was in the front with Michael and Raphael, Bill and Dan sat at opposite ends of the second row and the four Ex spread themselves out in the back.

“What is that?” Raphael asked, watching her examining the teddy she held on her lap.

“A teddy bear. It’s a child’s toy.”

“How did it come to be inside the Command Centre?”

“From when it was Baxter Detention Centre, I suppose. One of the refugee children left it behind.”

Raphael shook his head slowly.

“What?” said Raven.

“It was recently placed there,” he told her.

“How do you know? Look at the condition of it! It’s been lying there for years.”

“No,” Raphael insisted. “It was not there when we …..” he hesitated, looked embarrassed, “…… when we were there …..”

“When were you there last?”

“When we flew out to the Medical Centre to …..”

“To kidnap me …. yeah, I remember.” She gave him a wry grin.

“Yes,” he murmured.

Raven frowned at the teddy bear. “You just mightn’t have noticed it, lying there by the light pole.”

“I would have noticed. We are trained to notice.”

“Then how did it get there?” she asked, staring into the teddy’s one brown eye.

  • * *

Sage checked the palm-top. The pod was almost there. He’d been right about her destination. “What is she doing?” he muttered to Fury, running effortlessly alongside him. At their pace, they were still five hours away from GOD’s underground facility. He wasn’t overly concerned for her safety; she was immune to the GOD virus and had shown she was capable of handling herself when it came to the Ex. An amused grin briefly chased the frown from his face, remembering the scene: the Ex pouring out of the underground like ants disturbed in their anthill, terrified of this little human and the cold virus she carried.

No, he was not concerned. Puzzled, yes, and a little piqued that it wasn’t him she was looking for. Too busy with her new agenda, her new friends, to be bothering about him. Still, she was carrying the satnav and had it switched on. She wanted him to know where she was. Perhaps needed him to know.

  • * *

“There it is.” Raven pointed.

Bill peered over her shoulder at the desert ahead. “Why’s it parked in the middle of nowhere?”

“That’s the underground facility where GOD’s hiding out.”

Bill nodded. “Right. The military research lab that didn’t exist. Knew it was out here, makes sense it’s underground.” They were overhead now, hovering. Bill stared down at the small pod. “Can’t see anyone. Damn! I’d hoped we’d catch them before they did anything stupid.”

Raven had hoped that too. Hoped that the swirl of sand the wind picked up as she watched wasn’t all that was left of Sally, the Preacher and the boys.

  • * *

Debra checked on Ana, was relieved to see that the little one was able to fall asleep without teddy in her arms. Such a shame she’d lost that, her companion from the past. Still, maybe it was a good thing. No good hanging onto the past. Best to take each day as it comes. She straightened, allowed herself a deep sigh, then walked quietly across the floor, towards the look-out room. “Keep it down,” she cautioned the others as she went past. “Ana’s asleep. Don’t wake her.”

In the look-out room, Jimmy was sitting in front of a wall of screens. “They’ve gone,” he told her, then pointed to one of the screens that showed a section of the surrounding desert. “Left the vehicle behind.”

“That means they’ll be coming back,” said Debra. “You go to bed now, Jimmy. I’ll take over till breakfast.”

Jimmy shot her a grateful look and slid out of the look-out chair. It had been fun at first, being on look-out duty, all the screens and controls, zooming in and zooming out, spotting lizards on the dunes, checking out the land outside the walls where they couldn’t go. Then it got boring: same old lizards, same old walls; nothing happened most of the time. When the giants came back someone else was always on duty but this time it was he who spotted them, gave the alarm. An air of self-importance in his strut into the main room.

Debra did a quick scan of the screens, satisfied herself that all was as it should be, then settled back into the big, padded look-out chair. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, drew a deep breath. So tired, she could fall asleep, sitting in the chair. She was ten when she became leader of the group. Old enough to remember the day the older ones left her in charge. It was supposed to be just for a few hours. They said they’d be back soon. Took one of the pods to check out the outside, see if there was anyone out there. That was two years ago.

And she remembered the night the parents left. They said they’d be back soon, too. Just going to the pub for a drink, left the older ones in charge. When she awoke the next morning, the parents had not returned. The older ones loaded all the children into two of the largest ATVs and headed to the small country town a half hour’s drive from the camping ground. The town was deserted.

Debra remembered the fear and panic that gripped them all, even the older ones. Couldn’t remember how many days they spent, driving around the desert, searching. Then they came to this place. The gates were open. They drove right in and the older ones checked it out and said it was safe. Safer still when they discovered the underground hideout with its look-out room. And the hoodies that made them invisible.

chapter 104

takes you to the beginning of the story and from there, by clicking on ‘next’ in the description, the story is posted in sequential chapters.

inbetween 103

Alenka Co

Stonebow, Australia

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