This is the sixty-fifth chapter in a continuing fictional series, and the first in part six. To see past chapters please check my older posts.
Sometimes it took Jac a couple minutes to wake me from a nightmare, but tonight, in the midst of dreamless sleep he only had to hiss my name urgently.
My eyes popped open immediately and in the dark room it took my mind another three seconds or so to process the large shadowy form from which Jac’s voice had originated. The form was composed of two men, Jac in front, with a knife to his throat.
“Helen,” he said again, as I sprung into sitting position. “The gun.”
Adrenaline sharpened my vision as I grabbed for the drawer next to the bed where my handgun was kept at night. As my eyes suddenly adjusted, I froze mid lunge.
The assailant spoke. “Rory. They’ve come for you. We have to leave. Now!”
Changing tactics instantly, I jumped out of bed and slid on my shoes as I said calmly, “He’s on our side Devon. Jac this is Devon. Devon, Jac.”
Devon did not let go immediately, asking skeptically, “Are you sure?” while Jac simultaneously exclaimed, “You know him?”
“Yes,” I answered both at once. I grabbed my gun and jacket. “Devon, what’s going on?”
Devon slowly slid the knife away from Jac’s throat and sheathed it. He spoke urgently in a way I’d never heard before. “They’re already here. They’ve come for you Rory. I didn’t know if I’d make it in time. We have to go now.”
“They’re already here?” I asked. “As in, they’re already in Canosia?”
“Who?” Jac asked.
“They’re already in the hospital. We need to move before they find us, or we’re dead.”
I felt my blood run cold, but I nodded. Devon cracked open the door and disappeared into the hall. I was about to follow, when Jac grabbed my arm. The fear in his eyes was palpable.
“Helen, are you sure?”
“Yes, Let’s go,” I said and followed after Devon, Jac right behind me.
Devon led us away from the main entrance at the front of the hospital, and at first, the dark hallways seemed peacefully deserted like they always were at night, but a nagging fear seemed to be chasing me. It was like my dream again, but this time I knew I wasn’t dreaming. My heart raced.
“They’ll lock down the building,” Devon whispered as he moved. “We have to find an exit they haven’t secured.”
“Go up to the second floor,” Jac said. “There’s a fire escape on the east side of the building.”
Devon nodded and we weaved toward the stairs. I heard a quick succession of loud bursts from somewhere behind us that I couldn’t dismiss after all my time at the shooting range. Jac jumped nervously behind me.
“Devon, what’s going on?” I whispered as we climbed the stairs.
He looked behind us before answering quickly and quietly. “I only learned of your location a week ago and started toward you, figuring if I knew, Egil would know soon enough. Unfortunately he moved more quickly. Two days ago I learned of their plans, and I’ve been racing to get to you in time.”
“Why didn’t you just call?” Jac asked.
“I’ve had some employees betray me,” Devon explained. “I don’t think my phone is secure.” He spoke calmly, but solemnly.
We heard footsteps approaching on the second floor and we dived down a hallway into a dark alcove. I had a flash of déjà vu. It was eerily similar to running through the Compound being chased by the Queen’s men. The footsteps faded away, and we didn’t see who they belonged to.
“This way,” Jac said, leading the way.
Devon continued, “I was hoping I’d get here first, but the guard station at the front of the camp had already been neutralized. I made my way here in hopes that you hadn’t been found yet. Fortunately I knew what room you were in. Either they didn’t know or they spent some time doing something else first. Maybe setting up the explosives.”
“What do you mean, neutralized?” Jac asked, stopping in his tracks.
“What explosives?” I gasped.
“Go!” Devon urged. Jac turned a corner and led us to a door in the middle of the hall. As he opened it cautiously Devon stood in front of me, knife ready.
“Clear,” Jac said from inside. We slid into the room. Jac was already at the window stealing a glance down. “I don’t see anyone.”
Devon looked too before nodding approval. “You know how to use that gun you’re carrying, Rory?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said without hesitation. “I’ve learned a few things since I saw you last.”
“Then let’s go,” Devon said. He slid the window open and hopped onto the fire escape. It creaked and we all froze. “I’ll wave when I know it’s clear. Go quickly. Then we’ll run straight back to that building there, and figure out our next move.”
Devon descended the old metal stairs quickly, and jumped to the ground, ready to spring into movement if necessary. His knife was unsheathed. A small pause and he waved and then faded into the shadows. I climbed through the window, and Jac came right behind me. He closed the window as I rushed down the stairs, each step groaning under my weight. I made it to the ground and ran to the building across the wide walkway. Jac was just behind me and Devon met us in the shadows. In a dark doorway of the supply building we caught our breath.
“What explosives?” I asked again.
“From what I could gather,” Devon said. “The team assembled has two missions. The first is to acquire you alive—if possible. The second is to destroy as much as possible. They should have a hefty number of explosives from the reports I’ve heard, and my best guess is they want to take out the entire hospital.” I shivered, but not because of the chilly night air.
“SHHH!” Jac hissed suddenly, and we all froze. I could just see the fire escape from my position. A man, not dressed as a Lochlind soldier, walked to its base. He pulled out a roll of wiring from his jacket and began running the wire up the stairs.
Devon tapped me on the shoulder and silently indicated that we should leave. We snuck farther away from the hospital where probably a hundred injured people were in the process of being taken hostage. Devon led the way through the shadows.
When we were far enough away to be out of sight and sound of the hospital Devon stopped again. “We have to get you out of here, Rory. We need to get as far away as possible. They may have already discovered your absence, but hopefully they’re still searching. We’re safest on foot for now, assuming you can walk as well as it seems.”
“Devon, they’re going to blow up the hospital, I can’t just leave,” I said.
“Rory, you are more important than that. Haven’t you realized that yet? Without you there is no hope for Arrowhead,” Devon said fiercely.
“And without Lochlind there is no hope for me,” I snapped. “I’m not going to leave them to a surprise attack,” I said.
“Rory,” Devon said as a warning. “I can’t guarantee your safety if we don’t leave now.”
I looked at Jac. “You’re the boss Helen. I’ll do whatever you tell me to.”
I hesitated for only a minute longer. “I’m staying. Devon, I understand if you have to leave. Thank you for saving my life. I won’t forget it.”
He sighed in frustration. “If you’re not leaving, there’s no point in me leaving. What are we going to do?”
“We need to warn as many people as we can,” I said. “Except for security, most soldiers will be at the barracks or the rec center at this hour.”
“Even the rec center should be pretty quiet by now,” Jac said. “But the barracks are split, half on this side of the hospital half on the other. To get to the other side, we’ll either have to circle around the hospital or head right back toward it. I don’t see how we can alert both barracks.”
“We can if we split up,” I said. Both men looked at me in alarm. “Listen, I know it’s not ideal. If someone heads back past the hospital and warns the other barracks, someone else can go alert this side. Carr’s residence is over here too. We need to warn him.”
“You cannot go anywhere near that hospital, Rory,” Devon said firmly.
“So I won’t go that way,” I responded.
“He doesn’t know his way around camp,” Jac said pointing at Devon.
“So he’ll come with me,” I said. “Jac, you’ll have to go back.”
“My job is to protect you, Helen. I can’t do that if I’m not with you when the attack comes,” Jac said. He was jumpy and scared.
“Devon will protect me,” I said. “And I need you, Zajac. We don’t have time to argue. We need to move, now.”
Jac hesitate longer, torn between his duty to protect me and my logic. “I’ll do everything in my power to keep her safe,” Devon told him. Finally Jac nodded.
“Get Raymond first, if you can,” I said. “He knows how the Queen’s Guard works. Tell them to keep things quiet. If the attackers know the whole camp is mobilizing they may start blowing things up. Our goal is to save as many people as possible, and everyone in the hospital is in danger.”
“Consider the road from the hospital to the main entrance completely compromised. Avoid it,” Devon added in.
“You’ll keep her out of trouble?” Jac asked Devon uneasily. “She can be stubborn. And persuasive. And she has a nasty punch.”
Devon looked at me curiously, but then turned back to Jac. “I promise.”
Jac nodded again. “I won’t let you down, Helen,” he said, sounded much younger than usual. He turned to go.
I grabbed his arm and pulled him back into a tight hug. “Be careful Jac,” I whispered anxiously. “Please be safe.”
He laughed nervously. “Me? I run from danger. Never cared for it,” he said trying to sound casual, but his voice was shaky and hoarse. One more quick squeeze to the arm and he slid away disappearing into the shadows.
I watched the place he’d disappeared, an anxiety broiling inside me. Devon gave me a short moment before nudging me along. “Come on, Rory. We shouldn’t stay in one place too long, and we have a lot of work to do.”
We ran away in the night.