When Jackson stepped back out the tent, he didn’t look that surprised to find all three of us there, shocked in silence. He had looked at us, only for a few moments, before sighing and walking away.
Carmen wasn’t surprised either she simply told us to keep quiet over the ordeal. There was no way I could tell someone if I wanted to. My throat was to tight, tongue to thick and brain in to much of a mess. Toby had to carry me back to the tent thanks to my inability to move.
What are you meant to do when you know your best friend is out there being attacked? My first answer would be to go rescue them, but if these rebels couldn’t even rescue Shane, their leader, how would they go about rescuing a young teenage girl who wasn’t meant to be here in the first place.
My second idea is of Jackson smuggling her out since he’s in the government team. When I voiced the thought, only barely, in a panicky voice, she shook her head.
“Its way to dangerous for the both of them. My dad would be shot and so would Eliza.”
“Shootings a quicker way to go than torture,” I had snapped back, causing a sleeping Toby who was lying next to me to stir awake.
“There has to be something we can do, right?” I looked from one to the other. “This is my best friend!”
“And that man’s my father and the hundreds of people in here are rebels. We won’t be rescuing Eliza, Alice. We’d be getting her killed along with everyone else.”
Surprisingly, I couldn’t seem to cry at any time during this all thanks to my body shutdown. That and the fact I was busy trying to invent plans kept me quiet, causing Toby to become uneasy.
“What are you thinking?” he asks when we wake up the next morning. Well, they wake up. I’m to busy imagining what’s happening to Eliza to sleep. That and planning kept me occupied the whole night.
“What do you think I’m thinking? My best friend is being tortured, you idiot.”
He doesn’t flinch, but frowns a little.
“You don’t know that for sure.”
“Oh really?” I fake widen my eyes. “So they’re having a magical tea-party?”
Amelia, who slept on Amelia’s bed so Toby could sleep next to me, sits up slowly.
“Nightmares,” she rubs her head. “I haven’t had them since my mum... never mind.”
I know Amelia’s mum was caught by officials and tortured before being killed. Now she has to relive the horror.
I have two hopes.
One, we’re able to get her out or they release her as soon as possible. The odds of us getting her out without harming anyone in the camp, her and Jackson included, a very low and that’s why I’m leaning towards the other hope.
They accidentally kill her during torture or shoot her as soon as possible so she can be relieved of her suffering.
Maybe they’re wrong, but I in no way am hoping she can “stand strong” and “battle this out”.
I roll to the side so I don’t have to meet there eyes and instead focus on a spot in the tent wall, telling myself I need to stand strong for her. I refuse to cry, but the pain’s certainly there to do it. It’s a wonder I can hold it in like I do.
I think I’m drifting back asleep when our part of the tent is ripped open, causing Amelia and I to shriek and Toby to dive under his blankets.
Jackson surveys us, rolling his eyes at a hidden Toby.
“You idiot,” he sighs and Toby peeks out, looking sort of goofy. “If my daughter or Alice tells me of you so much as touching them, you’re dead.”
“Yes, sir,” he throws me a glance, begging me to stay quiet.
As if I’d tell Jackson.
“How is she?” I sit up lowly, meeting his eyes so he’ll take me seriously. “Is she...”
“She’s not dead,” he shakes his head as he steps into our little area and makes himself comfortable on Toby’s bed, who’s now pressed up against the tent wall.
“Is that a good thing?” Amelia asks quietly and after a pause, he shakes his head.
“If I were her, I’d want to be dead.”
“Oh God,” I bring my hands to my face, almost like I’m trying to block out the horror.
Toby scoots closer to me, resting his hand on my back. He flinches when Jackson glares at him, but holds his ground.
“Tell me what they’ve done to her,” I demand softly. “Please, Jackson. How much is my friend suffering?”
“I should first tell you all that I’ve given her a needle, one the paralyses her senses. She won’t be able to feel the pain nor react in anyway. My only worry is it’ll wear off in due time and than she’ll be in for it.”
Is it wrong I want more information? I feel like I should know what’s going on, should get a bit of an understanding.
A sudden feeling of complete sickness fills my gut. It’s my fault Eliza’s going through this, my fault she’s being tortured. If I had just left her alone and out of the whole ideal of Toby on the sidewalk, she wouldn’t be in this situation.
I only just make it outside before throwing up on the tunnel bricks and Toby follows behind, holding my hair back.
It keeps slipping in front of my face, getting into my eyes and mouth as I try to cough up all the sick feelings that are threatening to drag me down. I know once I go, I won’t be able to get up.
I get frustrated with my hair, even though Toby’s doing his absolute best. It’s gone wilder, sort of frizzy and curly, over the past few days. It’s a sort of golden colour, kind of like my skin which only looks tanned now, no bruising.
I can’t take it anymore so I whirl on Toby and hold out my hand.
“Oh no you do not,” he glares back at me. “If you think I’m going to let you stab yourself, you can think again.”
Rolling my eyes, I shove him in the chest so he sprawls backwards, falling onto the tent.
Ignoring him, I grab hold of his ankle and yank up his pant legs; searching for the knife I know he keeps strapped to his leg. He tries to kick free, but I hold on firmly.
I eventually find the pocket knife on his other leg and pull it free from it’s strap. Toby tries to tackle me, but I shove him off.
“I’m not stabbing myself!”
It comes out louder than I planned and some people in the tents across from us stick their heads out. Ignoring them, I throw open the knife, using my other hand to pull my hair into a sort of ponytail, some strands hanging loose.
Toby always keeps his weapons sharpened so it doesn’t take long to saw at my hair, bits coming free as they fall to the ground.
My head feels lighter when I’m done, easier to move. I shove myself away from my spew and shake any loose strands free. I missed a few bits, meaning while most of my hair only brushes past my hair, little bits fall to my shoulders. I really couldn’t care less.
Toby stares at me, eyes wide and mouth open.
“What?” I glare at him. “It was time it went anyway.”
“I can’t believe yo...”
I cut him off.
“Look, I don’t care what you want to do, no offence. But I am going to go berserk if I stay one more second in this tent, waiting for news if my best friend is dead or alive. I know the odds of me rescuing her are way to low, but I don’t care right now. Come or leave, it’s up to you.”
His face turns from shock to pure disbelief.
“No! You are not goi...” I clamp my hand over his mouth, shoving him back to the ground. I feel awful for pushing him around like this, but I can’t be swayed.
“I know you want to protect me, Toby and I thank you for that. Only, now it’s time for me to protect her.”
“You won’t come out alive,” he rips my hand away from his mouth so he can hiss at me.
“I never said I would. All I need to do is find someway to end her pain.”
Though confused for a second, realisation eventually dawns on him and he looks at me painfully.
“You’ll kill her?”
My heart gives a painful thud and the tears I’ve been doing so well to hide start to appear. I sit back on my heels, pressing the palms of my hands into my eyes so the tears won’t spill.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to protect her. Sometimes it’ll cost you.”
Jackson doesn’t know I’m following him and I do my best to keep it that way. I need him to lead me to Eliza and he’s my only shot.
He climbs into one of the stored trucks in the cavern and I panic only for a second before climbing into the tarp covered back, settling down into the darkness and praying he didn’t see me.
The rockiness of the tunnel floor is the only way I really know we’re moving. A week back, Collin had invented this little bug thing that could quieten stuff like trucks and guns. The idea is pure genius and the whole camp nearly threw a party. Since those officials were seen stumbling down, everyone had been worried about the trucks making noise. Collin received many hugs and kisses from the hundreds of people that day and looked like a smug canary.
The truck’s rocking me to sleep and while I know it’s not the smartest idea, I sort of let it. Sleep’s a good way to hide away from this sort of pain, the kind that doesn’t release you. It’s a break from this hell we call earth.
My eyes snap open again when the thud of a door being slammed jerk me awake. I listen to the sound of boots clicking on the ground and frown. There isn’t one pair of boots, there are two.
“Ready?” I hear Jackson ask someone in that gruff and deep tone he has that almost sounds bored.
I squeak a little when whom I recognize to be Collin responds.
Their footsteps echo around the tunnel as they move away from me. Hoping I’m timing it right, I throw off the tarp when I figure they’re far enough away not to hear. Thanks to the electric lights down here, I’m able to see the backs of each figure. Definitely Collin.
I angrily pull myself from the truck bed, kicking a tire when I’m free. Everyone’s a liar in the camp. You think you can trust them and than suddenly some juicy secret arises.
Muttering under my breath, I’m about to follow after them when a hand clamps over my mouth.
Of course the first thing I think is, officials. I’ve been practically paranoid walking around the tunnels lately thanks to the theory Eliza heard so at least I’m a little prepared.
Since the hairy arm obviously belongs to a man, I lift my knee upward and jerk my knee backwards, connecting with my target.
I whip around, getting myself into one of the karate stances I was taught and prepare to take out all my anger on this poor unsuspecting official who’s only listening to orders.
Only, my little red flashy light says otherwise and the name that pops up makes me grimace. Since we both had Collin register us right away, it’s not a mistake.
“I’m so sorry,” I drop to my knees next to a rolling around Toby.
His eyes are tight shut in pain and his hands clamped between his legs.
“Jeez, Alice! Why the hell did you do that?”
It comes out all wheezy and I have to stifle a little smile. He looks almost funny when he’s not pretending to be a superhero.
“Why are you here?” I demand of him quietly, stomach sinking as I realise Jackson and Collin will be way ahead of me now. If I run, I might be able to catch up.
As if sensing my thoughts, Toby clamps his hand around my wrist.
“Amelia’s coming with a tracker she stole from Collin. We’ll be able to follow from a very safe distance so you don’t have to worry.”
Though still in obvious pain, he sits up with a grunt.
“You didn’t really think this through, did you?”
“Yes I did,” I jerk my hand free, angry he’s distracted me.
“Obviously not. How do you plan to walk around up there in the Society looking the way you do?”
He laughs at my frown and I resist the urge to kick him between the legs again. He drives me insane.
“Lucky for you,” he pulls a backpack from his back, “we keep some of these spare.”
He dumps the inside of the backpack in front of me and my eyes widen.
“Where did you get this?” I hold up a wig that looked like my old hair back in the society. Scanning the rest of the stuff, I see he’s packed me a heap of clothes as well.
“Costume supplies,” he grins. When I look at him in confusion, he shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. Come on, I’ll help you get ready since Amelia will be here any moment.”
The wig feels weird and heavy on my now barely covered head, but I bite my tongue. I’m very lucky to have a smart boyfriend.
For clothes, Toby bought a pair of boots, long sleeved shirt and jeans, glasses, gloves and jacket. I’m trying to figure out what’s with all the clothes when Toby tells me.
“Your skin, love. You’re the biggest beacon, I swear.”
“My face won’t be covered,” I try not to panic, but it’s plain as day in my voice.
“Which is why you’ll be keeping your head down and follow close behind myself, got it?” he flips the jacket collar up so it brushes my ears.
When he’s happy with it, he plants both his hands on my face and brings my face to his. We’ve only kissed a few times and each time promises something new.
Today, the kiss is almost desperate as he backs me against the tent as we wrap our arms around each other. We barely stop for breath as our lips connect and disconnect in sync, but neither of us cares. We’re just happy to have each other.
I’m getting carried away, distracted, I know that so I’m almost thankful when Amelia leans against the truck casually.
“Done yet?” she asks politely and we jerk away from each other, my glasses going askew. “I’d love to let you guys keep going at it, but we need to get going now.”
“Ready?” Toby straightens my glasses for me, fingers brushing slowly against my cheeks.
“As I’ll ever be.”
He turns to Amelia who’s standing at the mouth of the tunnel Jackson and Collin went down. I pat under my shirt, just double checking as they’re distracted. The gun’s all set and ready.
“Lead the way.”