“Keep running! We’re nearly there…” Annabeth cries out, trying to motivate us all to keep going, not that it’s necessary. I don’t think I could stop my legs from sprinting if I tried. My chest is aching like my lungs are twenty kilogram weights, and my heart clearly wants to burst out of my chest...I must keep going. I make the stupid mistake of turning to look behind me, just to see how far they are behind us, but it makes me trip over my own feet. Thankfully, Daniel comes to my aid, pulling me back up and tugging me along behind him. We’re now a couple of meters behind Annabeth and Max, and a couple of meters closer to the agents chasing us. It takes all the energy I have left inside me to fasten my pace, but I manage it. I’m so close now...I can’t fall at the last hurdle.
“Come on...come on...come on...NOW!” Max cries out, and we all dart to the right, clinging to the wall of the alleyway, completely silent. A couple of seconds later the agents run past, and we all at last relax, letting out deep sighs of relief that soon turn into heavy pants.
“Nothing like a mid-morning run…” Annabeth trails off, trying to cheer us all up a bit. Daniel shakes his head, somehow managing a chuckle as he walks over to the entrance, unlocking the door using the key that hangs around his neck. We all bundle inside, collapsing on the broken furniture, utterly exhausted.
We found this place a month back, it’s some sort of hidden abandoned shed. It was empty to start with, but we found some mattresses and a sofa from the dump, and now it’s a sort of home to us… a lot easier than sleeping on the streets for sure. It’s been three and a half months since Luci took Xander, and a lot has changed since then. North and South are overcome with violence as ordinary people rise up against the government, who are made weak by the threat of Xander’s murder. Yes, he’s still alive, despite Luci’s bold claim...though nobody knows how long he’ll keep breathing for. With the government crumbling, the military are taking over, sending out soldiers to patrol the streets. Meanwhile the resistance are struggling also, the rebellium want to take over, but Grace is having none of it, whilst both want to put an end to zoning, they also want to put an end to each other...and well, it doesn’t exactly make things easier for us.
...We’re the group stuck in the middle.
At first we went to Grace and Beverly, hiding out underground, but nobody seemed to trust us there, Luci had soiled all our names. So, we left. That’s how we ended up on the streets, begging relentlessly for money and food. We were like that for a month, until Daniel found this place, and used some of our cash to buy a cheap padlock and key to keep others out of it. Unfortunately leaving the underground only fed the suspicions people had around us further, and now the resistance want nothing to do with us. As for the government and the military, well they’re hunting us, they want information about Luci and to put us behind bars. Neither side trusts us, so we just hide from both of them, hoping that maybe one day soon this will all be over.
“Hot chocolate?” Daniel offers, sitting down beside me with two mugs in his hands.
“Thanks.” I murmur, taking one of them and resting my head against his shoulder. The mug is warm in my hands, and it feels good...it’s freezing in this shed, I wake up each morning unable to feel my toes. We only have our own body-heat, and though nobody mentions it, we’re all worried about what will happen when winter comes. It’s early September now...and it’s only going to get colder. Daniel’s warm too though, I do have his heat at times as well as my own. Me and Daniel are...good. Not great, but not awful, I suppose it’s difficult to maintain a relationship when your surrounded by chaos. We haven’t had a proper moment since months ago back at the hotel before Annabeth interrupted us, but we do have these smaller moments to keep us both sane, to remind one another that we still care, we’re just not sure how to show it during these difficult times.
I’m not the only one with a heavy heart though, Max barely speaks nowadays. If there’s one thing I will never forgive Luci for, it’s for breaking his heart. She played with him like he was some toy to her, stringing him along right up to the very end. He genuinely believed she loved him- I genuinely believed she loved him, but all she loved was the idea of kidnapping Xander and making sure he pays for all he did in the past. When I put myself in his shoes, I can see why he’s so miserable. Not only did Luci use him, but his own mother hasn’t come to his defense to shut down the rumours spreading among the people of the resistance. The only time he seems truly alive is when he’s in a life or death situation, running from the military or hiding behind a bush, I think it’s because it distracts him from his thoughts.
As for Annabeth, well, she’s the only one who hasn’t seem to have changed. It’s as if she was born to live on the run. If you ever need reassuring or calming down you go and sit next to Annabeth, she makes the impossible seem easy, and when I’m with her I don’t feel like some lost cause, I feel like a person. The only time I ever see Annabeth’s can-do attitude falter is when we talk about the resistance, she was a part of their team for years and years, it was probably like a second family for her, and they’ve tossed her out of their ranks like she was some nobody. Aside from that, she’s the same bold, confident, and slightly bossy woman she always has been.
“Are you...okay?” Daniel asks me, leaning in closer. I laugh, shaking my head.
“Are any of us?” I sigh, “It’s been months and nothing's gotten better, if anything it’s gotten worse...the planet is in chaos. Then there’s Luci- I mean, we all thought we could trust her, but my kidnapping, the trial, the blueprints, even her romance with Max...it was all just a lie for her to use to get close to Xander, so she could take him, so she could kill him…”
“She fooled us all.” Daniel nods, “But we can’t focus on the past. Right now, we have to think about our next move.”
“And what exactly will that be?” I roll my eyes, frustrated, “We haven’t even picked a side. Are we with the rebels, or the government...or maybe even Luci and her messed up ideas for the future? We can’t fight without a cause.” Daniel places his arm around me, pulling me closer to him.
“Don’t worry about it, how about we just stay civilians for this one?” He suggests half-heartedly, kissing my forehead.
“Yeah...who knows? Maybe one day we will get to set up our little shop, ‘Watson and Jackson’?” I rest my head on his shoulder, his warmth calming my nerves.
“Maybe, I mean, if the last year or so has taught us anything, it’s that things can change in the blink of an eye, right?” He agrees, and for a second, we just sit there together, quiet and peaceful. Watson and Jackson...the unbreakable pair.
Then, in the blink of an eye, all that changes.
The door swings open, and a tall dark man steps inside. Annabeth immediately draws her gun, pointing it directly at the stranger, who quickly raises his arms above his head.
“Don’t shoot! Please, I’m not here to hurt you.” He cries, stepping into the light so we can get a better look at him.
He’s broad and sturdy, he stands like a statue in the centre of the room, his brown eyes shining under the sunlight, and his short, messy black hair twitching in the breeze. He’s dressed simply, in black jeans and a white v-neck top. I get up and walk over, slightly muddled, I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before…
“Who are you? What do you want? Who sent you? How did you find us?” Annabeth fires questions at him like bullets, not giving him any space to answer in between each us.
“I promise you I’m not after any trouble…”
“Yeah, you kinda said that already, now answer her questions.” Daniel yells out, being surprisingly harsh towards the man.
“Please, I’ll explain everything, just calm yourselves down…” He trails off. He almost seems scared, which is odd considering he tracked down us. Max stands up from the back of the room, marching over to stand beside Annabeth, judging the stranger with squinted eyes.
“Wait...Tim?” He addresses him.
“Hiya Max.” ‘Tim’ responds.
“Hang on a sec- do you know this dude?” Annabeth asks Max, still pointing her gun at the guy.
“Yeah…” Max looks down at the floor, “He’s my boss.”