Chapter Seventeen – Part One
West of Paradise, Galatia
Rolland and Haley sit a few paces away from the nearest cliff face with a small fire to their backs for warmth and to keep the hybrids away. Ahead of them, they watch as the sun slowly begins peeking over the hills to the east. The sky above is glowing orange as if the sun were igniting the atmosphere as it shone on their humble planet. The hills and forests are painted a breathtaking green as the trees are awakened to yet another sunny day. As far as Rolland is concerned, life is good.
The duo sit in silence as the sun tentatively creeps upward, almost like it had forgotten how to rise and was relearning the skill. Once it is nearly a third of the way above the horizon, Haley quietly asks, “I don’t know if your dad would approve of bringing the Domers to the village.”
“And why’s that?” Rolland asks without taking his eyes off of the sunrise. He and Haley always liked to watch as the sky became a work of art every morning. Rolland had always reasoned that he liked it more than Haley, but she seemed content to wake up early and enjoy the view with him.
“Their leader, Maverick, clearly doesn’t have their respect,” Haley quickly points out, “I mean, several of his own people tried to kill him yesterday!
“From what I heard, it sounded like a longstanding rivalry,” Rolland points out. He takes a long, gentle breath as he watches the sun emerge the rest of the way from the hills that had hidden it. He didn’t know how, but the sun always seemed to speed up for the final moments of its rising.
“And how are we supposed to know that more of his people won’t try to do the same?” Haley presses. She sighs as she looks away from Rolland and toward the sunrise and she stares at it in silence. Rolland can tell that she is choosing her words carefully, so he opts to keep silent and let her think. After a minute or so, Haley finally says, “You know how much I like to help people. There’s just something about these people that seems off. They’re hiding something big, and I know you can sense that too.”
“Yeah, they’re hiding things, but Maverick says it’s nothing we should worry about.”
“And you took him at his word?”
“We don’t have a lot of other options.”
“No, we have plenty of options. They are the ones who are limited. We can leave whenever we please.”
“Can we though? You and I both know that leaving Maverick and his team out there would eat at us. It’d kill the twins too.”
“Well, have you talked to them about it? I’m sure they’d see things our way.”
“Julius and Nick talked to the two of them…”
“Well, Astrid seems to have taken a liking to one of them.”
“Well, he likes another one of them. He says she’s the one for him.”
“What does Astrid say about her guy?”
“I actually didn’t hear that one. I don’t even know who it is.”
“Well, I guess our hands are tied then.”
“Well, it doesn’t help that Nick and Julius both have crushes on the same Domer.”
“Yeah, they don’t know that they’re vying for the same girl though. I think it’d be best if we let them find that out on their own too. You and I have bigger things to worry about.”
“True, true,” Haley slowly nods.
Haley and Rolland remain silent for several minutes when Rolland suddenly gets and idea, “You know what?”
Haley jumps slightly at Rolland’s suddenness, but she recovers and asks, “What?”
“I think we—” Rolland is about to say that he thought that it couldn’t hurt to bring Maverick and the others back to their village when he is cut off by the sound of an explosion and some gunfire.
Rolland and Haley’s heads both snap back as they look to the source of the blast. When they see that the explosion had been in the direction of the camp, they both leap to their feet. Haley quickly tumbles to the ground and Rolland quickly helps her back to before he leads the way back toward the camp.
As they make for the camp, Rolland can hear the sounds of multiple weapons firing. As far as he can tell, seemingly everyone over there is shooting.
“Do you think Maverick’s friends came back to finish him off?” Haley questions as she and Rolland tear through the brush in a race for their companions.
“There’s no way they could have gotten that close without our noticing them…” Rolland answers, mostly in an effort to reassure himself. He had absolute faith in his team, there was no way they would suddenly be so bad at standing guard. At least if they were still alive… Rolland shudders at the thought of losing one of his teammates. They were his closest of friends. He grew up with them. To lose one of them, any one of them, would be the same as losing part of himself.
“There’s too much shooting for it to be Maverick and his team turning on us,” Haley notes, “They’re clearly fighting something.”
“I know,” Rolland agrees with a nod.
Before either of them can say another word, another massive explosion sounds, followed by several smaller blasts. Rolland suddenly fears that the Coalition might have sent in one of their gunships after them. But how could they have found us? There’s no way they would have tracked us. Unless one of Maverick’s people betrayed us to them… Rolland begins to get angry at the last thought when he suddenly realizes the improbability of it. If Maverick or one of his teammates betrayed them, then they wouldn’t be there to be shooting right now, and there were far too many weapons firing for it to just be the remainder of Rolland’s team.
“We got one!” Rolland hears a voice shout out triumphantly from somewhere in the firefight ahead.
“There are plenty more to be worried about!” another voice snaps before another blast sounds.
“What are they fighting?” Haley wonders aloud as she and Rolland slow down considerably. There was no use in charging into the middle of a fight if you didn’t know what was going on.
“I don’t—” Rolland’s voice catches in his throat when he sees a dead hybrid laying on the ground a short way ahead of them. Much of the creature had been blown away, leaving quite a few burns on its shredded flesh.
“Why would a hybrid of come after us now?” Haley wonders aloud, “After all this time?”
“Get out of the way, Gideon!” Astrid’s voice cries. A moment later, the sound of Astrid’s favorite gun sounds amidst the sound of the battle.
“Think you can climb on of these trees?” Rolland asks Haley as his heart lurches. Haley happened to be quite averse to combat like this. Not because she didn’t believe in fighting, but because she physically couldn’t fight. Thanks to her injuries, firing a gun was immensely difficult. If it were anyone else, it would be impossible, but Haley had found a way to shoot, despite all her shortcomings. But the problem remained that she couldn’t fight well in a heated scene like the one they would be heading into.
“You and I both know I can’t” Haley shakes her head, “Besides, I can’t just hide while you and the others fight for your lives.”
“I’m going. Don’t worry, I won’t leave your side!”
“That’s exactly what I’m worried about,” Rolland bemoans as he passes his well-used sidearm to Haley. If Haley were to follow him, then he wouldn’t be able to move around as quickly as he would have liked. Not only that, but he also wouldn’t be able to run into the heat of the fight since he didn’t want to risk Haley’s life. He knew he could make it out fine, Haley he wasn’t so sure about. The hybrids would likely target her if they took notice of her thanks to her frailties.
Seemingly sensing his thoughts, Haley quips, “This way I’ll keep you out of the worst of it.”
“Don’t make me regret this,” Rolland says as he purses his lips. Raising his rifle, he mentally prepares himself for anything. He takes a slow breath to steady himself and, breathing it out, he continues toward the fight.
Hey, look here! I’ve got Chapter Seventeen Part Two!