Fight and Flight


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Fight and Flight
Synopsis Both are necessary for the Ferry when it comes to taking back their own in a dark future.
Date August 10, 2011

In Dreams

The sign says Mexico, 5 miles, but the blustery wind that blows from the north brings with it the chill of Lake Ontario, and the two-man US border patrol here is more concerned with the Canadian border than the southern.

Within a thicket beyond the bank of the road — denoted by iconic black and white shield-shaped signs as Route 69 — the members of this rescue mission crouch and wait. It's been a long couple of days travelling to this point, by boat and by foot, and now everything depends on timing — and if the information they've received is correct.

"Remember, we need to do this quietly. Any gunfire is going to draw attention," mutters one of the men in the small party, dressed in a uniform identical to the guards he juts his chin toward. His face is pale in the light of the full moon above, but for the garish jagged scar marring it from forehead to cheek.

"Huruma and Ryans, on Ryans' mark, take out the two guards and drag them back here. Nicole, you and me'll take their place," he gives the electrokinetic in the patrol uniform a nod. "There'll be two men in the front of the truck. We take them out — quietly. Then we'll vacate the prisoners. Get them back here."

Peter taps the duffel bags they'd carried this way. "Give the prisoners some weapons if they're able to handle them, and head them southwest toward the river. If I don't follow for any reason, keep them moving."

The windows have been painted over in the same shade of charcoal gray as the rest of the vehicle so the six prisoners inside have no idea where they are or where they are going. The hard benches and stark interior make for a dark and uncomfortable ride — and they have only just begun, having left the prison camp built some twenty minutes ago. Every bump in the road feels like a mountain, every dip like a canyon; with no way to see the road, anyone prone to car sickness is probably out of luck.

Too bad the negation pills that they've all been forced to take don't double as motion sickness deterrents.

It's also cold, this far north in early spring on a crisp, clear night. With no heat in the back of bus, Monica Dawson finds her toddler shivering in her lap; most children might whine or complain, but hardship is no new thing to this child born in the prison camp they are leaving. They've been promised some semblance of freedom at the end of this journey — at least, more than they've had.

But Jaiden, Monica and their fellow prisoners know better than to trust the promises of the US government by 2017.

One of the bits of Jaiden's training that has come in extremely useful for the past few - years, has it been - is the ability to keep the contents of his stomach - what little contents there are, at least - from coming out in a multicolored bouquet of disgustingness. The fact that they're in a bus, the windows blacked out, stinking of sweat and fear with a temperature hovering far below what would be considered comfortable is not a position Jaiden would wish on anyone, and the fact that his family is in that horrible place with him only drives the point home even more. This is a very, very bad place to be.

"Here, Mo?" Jaiden shrugs out of his threadbare jacket, remaining clad only in a t-shirt with a 'Harvard' sweatshirt over it. "Wrap JJ up in this. I don't like seeing him cold." Fingertips brush over JJ's cheek affectionately before Jaiden settles back against the bench, lurching to the side as the bus hits an overly large pothole. Here's hoping the bus trip isn't long, and doesn't end with a bullet.

Graeme has gotten used to the negation, over the years, and even able to keep the contents of his stomach down. It's no longer the sheer hell it was when he was first in the camps, but still. He still doesn't deal well, as both of his companions know. On Jaiden's other side, Graeme's simply sitting there, head in his hands and his own jacket just as close to him as he can manage, "You two alright?" The drawl hasn't faded over time, but his voice is shaky nonetheless.

Monica's been on a ride like this before, one with similar pessimistic outcomes. And this time around, she's far more worried. The reason being that shivering child in her lap. Even she's been having a hard time keeping spirits up, but instead seems to have settled into a more stoic demeanor. Which probably means she's just waiting for an opportunity to make a move. She's not one to go down without a fight, after all.

Still, there's a smile when Jaiden hands over his jacket, and she doesn't hesitate to wrap him up in it. Her arms haven't been doing the trick so far. "He'll be okay. We're tough, aren't we, little guy?" Tough or not, okay or not, she holds that child tight against her. She, luckily, doesn't have issues with motion sickness, after an adult hood full of flipping around and hopping rooftops, and she tries to keep the ride from being too jarring for the boy.

Aren't they a little short to be stormtroopers? Nicole Nichols narrows her eyes, slanting her luminescent blue gaze to Peter. "We're not worried about taking any of these goverment bastards alive, right?" Having worked in politics and seeing what makes the government tick for as many years as she had really has done little but create a greater sense contempt for those who aid the system in any way.

There is no love lost between Nicole and The System. A pair of aviators, previously perched atop her head, are put into place to hide her eyes. When one's attempting not to appear Evolved, it's best to cover up the evidence. With a full charge, courtesy of a certain blonde, the side effects range from the glow of her eyes, to the mild fever she's running. She also consequently isn't terribly bothered by the cold. This comes in handy so fingers don't get frozen when triggers need to be pulled. Cold-stiff fingers don't make for quick response times.

Eyes hood slightly under the brim of his hat, in a sort of expression of '…' at the bossiness of Peter. In all honestly Benjamin Ryans is used to it. "The border patrol is to be left alone. Any guards on the transport are fair game." His voice rumbles, even as he speaks softly. He levels a look Huruma's direction, before jerking his head in the direction of their target. Let's go, it tells her. Won't take too long to get into place. A glance goes to Nicole, "Be careful. I don't want to explain to Lynette if something happens." The twitch of a smile is telling before he's sneaking off with his dark shadow in tow.

It'll be easy. No killing was his order and because of that he well be one to do the deed. For one they can strip them of the uniforms for later use. Not much use if they are stained. As he inches his way into position, he clutches a cloth.

The guards are lax enough and bored enough that they don't really notice till it's too late. In a flash of moment the tall man grabs one of the guard around the neck and with a jerk pulls him back. The guard will fight, but not for long as a cloth is slapped down over his lower face. Chloroform is a terrorists best friend when he doesn't want to kill someone. By time the man's feet disappear into the greenery, he's out and down for the count.

The night is chilly, but it does not seep through the dark blue clothing and vest that Huruma has covered herself in, to blend into the paling nighttime. Still, she finds that telltale twinge in a couple places, courtesy of approaching her fifties, but for the most part, Huruma moves as fluidly as she ever did. Must be all that castle food. The woman waits in silence, until the movement of Benjamin's head beckons her along.

As Ryans lurches up at the back of the first guard, Huruma does the same for the second; in one glove is a similar cloth, heavily soaked in the chemical. Her arms coil around the target's shoulders, that hand clamping over his nose and mouth, the other arm hooked under his arm and around his neck to yank him off of his feet and back into the brush. She emits a sensation of calm, between the haggard breaths the guard takes behind the cloth, and between the soothing little hiss of air in his ear.

She won't need to tell them to move, instead letting her eyes search for the backs of the two to hop into place.

"Just the prisoners. The drivers don't know anything worth the trouble of getting it from them," Peter says dryly to Nicole. When Ryans and Huruma drag the two guards off the road and into the weeds and trees, he nods, moving forward. "Stay out of sight," he reminds the others — the drivers of the transport van need to feel that all is normal — at least until they stop the vehicle and the prisoners are freed.

In the distance, headlights pierce the darkness. "Any other car, we're waving through, Peter reminds his fellow "stormtrooper."

But it isn't any other car — at two o'clock in the morning, no other vehicles are on these roads. Soon enough the rumble of the van lets the Ferry members know that it's a large vehicle, and within moments the hulking black shape of a government van is slowing down to pull to a stop.

Inside the van, little Jaiden Micah Dawson Mortlock opens his green eyes. "We there, Mama?" he asks in a sleepy voice, looking up. It can't be that short of a trip — they were told it would take a few hours, and not to expect any rest stops.

"Why're we stopping?" a young woman whispers to a middle-aged man, the other two prisoners in the back with the family of three and schoolteacher.

The trip didn't take nearly as long. Jaiden estimated that it would have taken a couple of hours to get wherever they're going, but they've been driving for around half that according to his guesstimated internal clock. A quick glance to the door, locked from the outside, has the negated water shaper moving to stand in between that and the rest of the people in the van. "I don't know, JJ - you stay with mommy, okay? Mabye they stopped to get gas or just to get a snack."

Graeme looks up at Jaiden for a moment, and though everything in normal circumstances would have the teacher on his feet just as quickly, there isn't room in the van for both of them to stand at once, either. Even if he wasn't negated. But he does sit straight for the first time in the whole ride, moving to fill the seat vacated by Jaiden, as alert as he can be and protective. "Your parents an' I," he says, "we'll figure it out." With more certainty than he actually feels, but still.

Monica stiffens as the bus rolls to a stop, but her fingers reach up to pet JJ's hair as he speaks up. "Don't worry. We'll be back on the road soon," she says, and she leans in to give him a kiss on his forehead. But when she looks away from the boy, she casts a more worried look to Jaiden and, beyond him, Graeme.

"Whatever happens," she says as Jaiden gets up, "We stick together." Graeme, however, is included in the statement. She looks back out the windows, trying to see what's going on up toward the front. And while she's tense and edgy, there's a readiness about her, too. After all, being negated doesn't put Monica at as much of a disadvantage as they might like.

Nicole wastes no time in taking up the space the guards have left behind. She dips her head down to peer over the top of her darkened lenses for a better visual confirmation of the vehicle. There's little doubt about it being the prisoner transport they're here to intercept, at this hour.

When it comes to a stop, Nicole stands up taller and motions for Peter to round to the passenger side while she approaches the driver. He rolls his window down for her, and she steps up and presses one hand casually to the cab, the other hand held out. "Identification," she requests with authority. Despite the strange look her aviators get, there must be something about the way she carries herself, because the driver doesn't make any comment. He simply hands over the appropriate documentation.

And when he does, it's his arm that Nicole grabs. Her ungloved hands clamp around the man's wrist and she pours enough electricity into him to light up the cab, briefly. She isn't concerned about taking anyone from the government alive. After the smell of ozone and burning flesh fills the air, and the driver has slumped back, Nicole reaches through the window to wrench the handle and pull open the door, dragging the man out and throwing him to the ground. Were she alone, she'd run the risk of being shot by the man on the passenger side of the transport vehicle.

But that's why she has Peter freaking Petrelli to watch her back.

The guards are left to lay a distance off the road. They won't be awake for a good two hours. By then the group should be long gone and then they can go back to their families and lives. Once Huruma has her own guard, he leads the way through the trees, watching the approach of lights. Stopping at the edge of the shrubbery. It's a good shrubbery.

Crouched, with the heavy duffel of weapons on his back, he watches the lights pass them. He only waits long enough for Nicole and Peter to approach the vehicle before he motions his partner in this to follow him. Distracted the drivers don't notice them slip behind the bus.

He looks at Huruma as he listens for the distinct sound of the back door locks disengaging, a pistol ready and a hand curled quietly around the latch. At the click, he jerks the door open, trusting the dark woman to clear it, before he looks in.

Huruma creeps along with Ryans to the back of the bus, when it is fully stopped and he gives that small signal for her to come with him. Boots are hard on the road, firm beneath her feet. They wait with bated breath at the rear door, and when the lock clicks, Huruma is prepared for when Ben grabs the handle and yanks it open. Bathed in moonlight, two giant figures are perhaps not the most welcome sight when the colder air rushes into the bus. Cold air. Fresh air. And a too-white, too-sharp smile on Huruma's face when she finds no armed resistance on the inside. A pity, still. Her smooth voice is perhaps a relief, to those who remember it.

"Let's go, my darlings. Women and children first." Her heavily gloved hand reaches up into the hold, beckoning the prisoners out into the night, there to help them on their way. "We do not have terribly long."

When Nicole reaches in to fry the man with electrical current — and the vehicle's locks in a bonus move — Peter simply places a hand on the passenger's and the man begins to spasm, blood leaking out of his nose before he slumps forward in the seat.

Those chores done, Peter hurries around to the back of the van to offer hands out, throwing Monica a crooked smile of recognition. "Cute kid, Dawson. Think you can handle this without cutting him to ribbons?" he says, pulling from his belt a scabbard and tossing it to the young woman.

The small toddler blinks wide eyed at Huruma's beckoning hands and ducks his head shyly into his mother's neck.

As the passengers inside climb out of the bus, Peter nods toward Ryans' duffel. "We're low on guns but we need to keep quiet — we're gotta get to the river, and we want to use gunfire only if we have no other choice. Pass 'em out, boss."

The duffel is stocked with home-made crossbows and an assortment of blades. "Let's get moving. I'll take care of our tracks. Get going. Don't wait — if you get to the boats, and I'm not with you, just go."

Anyone who knows Peter knows that means they will be making the trip without him.

If someone were to tell Jaiden that seeing Huruma's smiling face would bring a surge of relief, any time before this very moment, he'd laugh in their face and call them a dreamer. But now, with Huruma standing there in the cool of the night, assisting in their freedom? It's all Jaiden can do to not reach out and give the woman a tight hug.

"Come on Monica. Come on, JJ - this is one of Daddy and mommy's friends, come to help us out of our troubles." The tall Aussie offers Monica a hand - sure, she probably doesn't need it, but it's the right thing to do for the mother of his child.

Graeme helps the young woman out of the van and then gives Jaiden a half-canted look. "If these are your friends, Jai," he says, the look turning into more of a grin, an expression they're more used to seeing on the teacher's face, "I like 'em already." It's impossible to tell whether or not it's a joke, sincere, or what, through the half-racing thoughts. Once outside the van, the schoolteacher slumps all the way to the ground for a moment, nearly retching before hauling himself upright and apparently shaking it off. "Better." Standing all the way up, he's as alert as he can be, with a stance that betrays some actual martial training in his younger years.

It's hardly a relief, at first, when those doors open behind them. Monica holds JJ closer to her, her gaze wary. But Huruma's appearance and words do the trick and she stands to head toward the back exit. She takes Jaiden's help down, but it's that unexpected, familiar voice that grabs her attention.

"Thanks, Petey," she says, her tone much lighter than the situation calls for, but hey, she's not being dragged out and executed, so it's a good night for her. When she catches the scabbard in her non-JJ'd hand, she looks at it, then smirks over at Peter. "Is this a question?"

She sets JJ on his own feet before she takes a moment to draw the wavy dagger out, taking a moment to look it over before she looks down at JJ. "Honey? You've got to stay with your dad and Graeme, okay?" Her gaze flicks over to the duffel bag for a moment before she adds, "I've got some work to do." She glances up to Jaiden as she nudges JJ thataway before she crosses to draw a crossbow and bolts out of the bag as well. It's been too long since she was armed. Too too long.

At Peter's words, she looks back to him, her eyebrow lifted. "Peter…" She knows what it means, but that doesn't mean she likes it anymore now than she ever did. But, she might be a little more understanding these days. So, instead of arguing, she throws him a salute and a crooked, if somewhat sad smile before she turns to find Ryans. It's one of the names she got tossed in this camp for not giving up, so seeing the man here and alive and well, it's a nice pay off. Plus, she's ready for duty.

"You're such a shithead, Petrelli," Nicole murmurs, shaking her head. "Don't be too far behind," she demands, a sharp stare thrown his way after her glasses are perched atop her head again. An accompanying crackle-pop! of electricity from the tip of her finger pointed at him for effect before she leans into the vehicle again.

A pull of a lever in the cab pops the hood, and Nicole rounds the front to lay hands and draw the power out of the battery. Recharge for her, and a worthless vehicle to whomever comes upon it. "All right, let's move."

Peter's words get no more then a grunt out of the old man, but the pistol is tucked away and the duffel is shrugged off and unzipped. It's held open, though he makes sure people he knows are capable in combat get the heavier weapons.

Lips pressed into a fine line, Ryans glances at Peter after a moment. He doesn't like that the man flits off to god knows where each time. Luckily, there is some trust there. Some.

Jaiden is offered one of the crossbows with a short nod of his head. Despite the issue between him and Delia, he still greets the hydrokinetic. "Mortlock." Another crossbow handed to Graeme, as he addresses Monica. "You join Nicole to bring up the rear of the group." Peter will do whatever it is Peters do. He's learned not to try and make Peter go one way or the other. "We have less then two hours, before the border guards wake."

The duffel is handed another of the freed inmates to be distributed. Ben motions for Huruma before he starts off the road, determined not to dally any longer.

Huruma assists in swiftly herding out the people left in the back, quickly seeping into a businesslike set of movements. One thing, leading into another. This is not the first, and likely not the last time that she does something like this. She already has a pistol on her belt, and a machete at her hip, which she unhooks from its sheath once the last is off the bus. It glitters, obscenely lovely amidst all the dark clothing and shivering limbs of the group.

"Keep up." She motions once with the blade in her hand, a twirling movement at the air above her shoulder, to signal the rest to move after herself and Ryans. Hard to lose them, anyway, isn't it? "Good luck, Peter." Huruma offers this last.

The smaller Jaiden lifts his hands wordlessly to his father, following Monica's directions, though while waiting to be hoisted blinks green eyes at the group of rebels that will soon become his family of sorts.

"I'm coming with. But I'll deal with any trouble that comes from behind," Peter vows, as the group begins to move to the side of the road, moving south toward the river. He follows far to the rear, moving backward slowly as he concentrates carefully on the ground — covering their tracks, as he promised.

It is many miles to the river through wooded and rough terrain — the conversations are kept to a minimum of whispers. They have plenty of time to make up for lost time once they are safe — which is not for many more miles, of walking and then on the Mohawk River to where it joins with the Hudson.

A crack of wood splits the near-silence of shuffling feet — somewhere to the right of the group.

'Difficulties with Delia' is the pg way to state it - a nice, simple sounding way to wrap up in a pretty bow the massive mess that Delia and Jaiden's relationship, or what there was of it after she left him for the first time. "Thanks for coming, Ryans." All business, the hydrokinetic is, checking the trigger pull, checking the bolt to make sure he's ready to rock in case of any troubles. He does steal one of the jackets from one of the dead men - his is being used to keep JJ warm, after all - and puts it on once he's searched it quite thoroughly for anything that even remotely looks like a tracking device, going so far as to check linings, buttons, and the like - a tall order in the light of the moon. If there's a sidearm, he takes that, too. "Hey JJ?" Jaiden offers a free hand, lifting the boy up and cradling him on his hip, the oversized jacket swallowing the two-year old, "stay with me and hold my hand while mommy goes to take care of some things. I don't want to get scared, okay?" Jaiden puts on a big smile. "Once we're safe, we'll introduce you to everyone, okay?"

"Ryans?" It's muttered underneath Graeme's breath with a recognition usually saved for times past, easier times, right as Jaiden speaks. Something to bring up another time, when he's sure it's not just the drugs. But for the most part, he trudges along in silence, crossbow strung and pulled to the ready and a bolt in his hand, until the sound. That's his side, and he pauses almost in his tracks, one hand held up eventually, head shaking. "I heard something," he says, with utmost seriousness. "Someone else tell me they heard it and it wasn't just the drugs."

"They're good people," Monica says to Graeme, in case there's any lingering doubt. She takes a moment to flip up her hood, worn and ragged though it may be, it's something of a security blanket for her. And with dagger in one and and crossbow in the other, she moves to take her position at the back of the group. After blowing JJ a kiss, of course.

It isn't until the sound of shuffling that Monica shifts at all from a guarded, ready position, but when she hears it, she lifts the bow up, taking aim, but not firing just yet. "Nicole," she's pretty sure that was her name, "You hear that?" She does glance to Graeme, giving him a reassuring nod. You're not crazy!

Nicole's reaction is immediate. Her arms snap out to her sides and electricity webs blue arcs between her splayed fingers. Monica gets a nod. Ready to strike, the dark-haired Nichols can cut a menacing figure. Even without a sidearm or blade in hand. She calls for quiet with a sharp Shh! Her head canting slightly signals her attempts to listen, her eyes scanning the area.

Her gaze lands on a dark shape about twenty yards off that looks enough like a person to justify the hairs on the back of Nicole's neck standing on end. (Even if that is just the static electricity. It's playing hell with her long hair, too.) It takes effort to leave her stare exactly where it is, rather than seek out Huruma for confirmation. If they aren't alone, she trusts the empath to sense it.

At the of the crack, Benjamin lifts a hand for silence as he scans the area, before putting it flat and motioning down. Hopefully those with kids will take the hint of hunker down, making for smaller targets. The pistol is still in hand, but with limited bullets, he doesn't want to shoot willy nilly. He's not about to waste them. Still it's a comfort to have the well worn grip in his hand.

Of course, when it comes to knowing what's out there… Ryans looks at his handy dandy baddie detector. "Flush them out if they are there." He murmurs under his breath to Huruma, slowly turning with pistol at ready. Blue eyes dart from one shadow to another waiting for that one thing that will give away the bad guys position.

Huruma feels the presence there before the noise; she is possibly the only one already with her attention in that general direction when the crackle comes through the undergrowth. Her hand is pulling the pistol from her belt when Ryans gives her the go ahead to move out of her half-crouch and forward into the wood. Nicole does not need to look, because Huruma moves silently into the edges of her vision, blade keen and pistol readied towards the leaf litter in front of her.

The woman moves like a spider, for those passing seconds, long legs and sweeping, silent movements, as she darts suddenly into the dark between the trees, pistol at the ready when she melts through to face the source itself. Always aim for the face, don't pull the trigger. Much easier that way. Not a soul on earth appreciates the chill barrel of a gun slipping through the dark, pointed at soft, fleshy faceparts- and in such quarters, no less.

"Kuacha." The hissing threat in her deep voice is real, even if the demand is unknown. It is fear of the unknown, and the paralyzing fear that she pushes down into his mind, that the singular military scout is undoubtedly concerning himself with.

The quiet woman in their party, one Monica knows is named Melanie, starts to run when the presence of someone or something is confirmed. She doesn't get far before she trips over a root, her grunt and the crackle of brush that comes with her fall enough to alert anyone else closeby of their presence.

"Calm down, Mel, we can get out of here. Just calm down," says the older man with her — not a relative nor a loved one, simply another prisoner named Jim.

JJ starts to whimper at Jaiden's chest. "Keep moving," he says, nodding to the south, to the river that they know is there, the promised land to lead them home.

In the trees with Huruma, the man is shivering, whatever fear poured into his mind has him sinking down onto his knees, hands rising above his head and tears streaming down his face.

"Blade, not gun. There might be more around," hisses Peter from where he's caught up to the group. And as if on cue, Huruma can feel creeping into the peripheral edge of her power from the other direction another presence — this time the cocking of a rifle in the distance is picked up first by Monica's keen ears — as she's the closest to the second scout.

It's some relief for Graeme that he's not just seeing, or as the case might be, hearing things. The crossbow is ready, bolt in hand, but ignored as he turns to helping Melanie up, keeping them moving, and keeping himself moving forward, even as he switches places so Jaiden is on the inside and if need be, Graeme has a clearer shot. Still, part of him wishes he'd grabbed a blade from the duffel bag as well.

There's a smile when Peter shows up again, and under other circumstances, she might have greeted him with a friendly punch to his shoulder, but it'll have to wait until they're away. As it is, her expression falls and she turns sharply to fire that crossbow toward the foreboding sound. No rifles allowed. And to follow up, she dashes in that direction herself, and the others can see her ricocheting between tree trunks to a moment, to get herself high enough before she comes down on the scout dagger first. Swift, and nearly silent.

One thing's certain, she didn't lose her touch in prison camp.

Nicole actually lets out a low whistle as she watches Monica work. Damn. The appreciation and admiration are cut short, however, when she tends to the business at hand. "Stay together!" she whispers sharply. "You break off from the group, and you're a sitting duck." And as it stands, she makes a pretty good beacon, with the faint illumination of her ability.

Once Huruma leaves his side, Benjamin is on the move again. Trusting his team to get things done, he focuses on getting the prisoners moving again. When on panics and goes down, he's there to help her up and get them moving again. "Come on," Is gruffly spoken.

Ben doesn't put his gun away in favor of a blade. He's leaving that to them, for now, since he doesn't plan to shoot unless shot at. Cause by then it'll be too late. With hope it won't come to that.

Ryans pauses, motioning others to continue so that he can glance back as the sound of the crossbow alerts him to what's going on. No doubt he'll feel a slight twinge of jealousy — not that anyone can see it — towards Monica and her fancy hippity hoppity footwork. He's just an old man, getting older and creakier in the joints.

Huruma smiles. She knows not to use the gun at a close distance. Only if he had shot first. She keeps her ability pressured on his mind, peering down her nose at the man kneeling on the ground. She puts the gun back in its holster, flicking the machete around in her grip so that the blade faces outwards. "There are more." She says to Peter, without looking to him. Her gloved hand pushes down on the soldier's head, drawing his face back to look her in the eye, as she bends at the waist to stare virtually into him. The dark woman's breath is hot on his skin, her voice sickly sweet, like a drip of molasses.

"You knew what you were getting into, kijana." Huruma presses the blade against the curve of his neck, as she pushes his head back further. "Mei awe na huruma juu ya nafsi yako. Goodnight, little brother." The plunge is easy, against the skin of his exposed neck. A surge of red coats Huruma from chin to breast, and she tosses him aside, turning back to quickly join the others, legs taking her breezily back through the trees.

The other has been taken care of, but with alert ears and Huruma's ability to sense anyone who draws too close, the group moves onward through the trees. The path is long and treacherous but eventually they find the trickle of a creek that will broaden bring them to the larger river — that will eventually lead them to safety.

The southward journey will lead them to a semblance of freedom — more than the prisoners have known in months and more than the youngest among them has ever known in his short life.

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