They had reached a safe house. To be more precise, they have driven deep into the Appalachian mountains before abandoning the car and hiking the rest of the way.
"Delia, let me carry you," Alden offered, but she declined.
"If we keep this pace, I'm fine," she said. "Besides, if you tire out, who's going to carry you?"
"Not I," said Collin at the lead. "It's not that far, anyways."
They came upon a small shack of a house. Once inside, Collin hurried to clean his wound and redress it. Lu came out of the bathroom, wiping his hands with a towel.
"You both made it!" He exclaimed and went to hug Alden and Delia.
He'd aged quite a lot in the last three years. It scared Alden to see him looking so gray. He'd never really been a young man, though.
"Look at the two of you," Lu kept on. "Grown up."
"Too grown up," Collin clicked his tongue against his teeth.
"What? What am I missing?"
"They're making me a grandfather while I'm still in my forties," he called over his shoulder.
"Inconvenient timing," Lu said with a frown, but then he smiled and hugged them again. "You'll never know how glad I am that you're safe. I'm assuming Lilly is somewhere safe as well?"
Alden had never seen Lu so affectionate or outwardly happy before. It made him tear up involuntarily.
"Yeah, she's safe," Alden said.
"Good. Are you hungry? I'm no gourmet chef, but I did better than survival food. How about grilled cheese?"
They built a fire in the fireplace that night and laid out sleeping bags on the floor. It was cold in the mountains, and the cabin was not very well insulated.
The next morning, Collin insisted on checking to make sure Delia was completely healthy.
"If I had my equipment with me, I'd run a blood test to be certain that you're actually pregnant."
"I took a few drug store tests back home. They all came back positive," she told him.
"How long have you known?" He asked.
Alden was helping Lu set up a few traps around the perimeter of the cabin.
"About a week," she admitted. "I was actually going to tell Alden this weekend at dinner, but you had to go and ruin everything."
"Hey, I didn't ruin everything. The situation was already bad and you both knew it. To let this happen was wildly irresponsible on both of your parts."
"I felt safe,"she said quietly. "I let my guard down and I wasn't careful. I'm sorry."
"What are you saying, little fox?" He asked and put his arm around her shoulder.
"I'm sorry I let you down, dad," she started to cry. "And I missed you."
Collin hugged his daughter tightly for the first time in three years.
"I missed you, too," memories rushed into his mind and he had to fight back the urge to cry with her.
"What do I do, now?" She asked.
"Well, we keep you healthy, and we do our damnedest to keep you both safe," he put his hands on his hips like he'd just said something really cool and knew it.
Lu and Alden were watching live security feeds of the woods around them.
"No activity today," Alden shrugged.
"Are we expecting to just let them come pounding on our doors?" Delia asked.
"We've got a few surprises in store for them, should they choose to walk up the path," Collin said.
"Why don't we go and find them? I'm sick of running and hiding," she crossed her shoulders.
"You don't know who you're dealing with," Lu said. "I was terrified of their capabilities when I left their ranks. But, I watched them closely. Four years ago, they went dark. Bankrupt themselves and collapsed because they lost control of their men. Then, I noticed a group of my old colleagues had formed a coalition of sorts. And they pointed their sights in our direction. These guys are no longer a public outfit. They operate in the shadows, the same shadows Collin and I had tried to use to shield Alden from sight. They've learned things. Impossible things. Our only trump is that he's got better control of his abilities."
"And he's the only one who survived, right? Who can do what he does?" Delia asked eagerly.
"That we're aware of," Lu answered. "Hopefully that remains true. I can't see a reason why they'd be after a child they were barely aware of if they'd had more successful trials. My bet is they never found anyone else, so they're seeking out any hint they've got. Why else would they sniff me out after fifteen years?"
"We'd made them think we'd died in a fire three years ago and they quit looking for us, until a few days ago," Collin said. "I got careless. Someone from the old days spotted me at a gas station. Chased me down. Shot me. Now we're here. Waiting for the assault. We won't have a chance to go after them. They'll be here soon."
A beep from the computer drew their attention.