Read Chapter 25 “J.T. Walton”
MAGGIE & JENNY
Jenny’s senses had gotten sharper since the beginning of her time-travelling adventures. It never ceased to amaze her how clearly she could hear and see even under harsh and unfriendly conditions. That unique ability guided her through the fog, leading Maggie and Jenny right to the base of a mountain surrounded by the graveyard of trees.
– “How did you know?” – Maggie asked, with awe in her voice.
– “If I’m not mistaken, the voices are coming from that cave right above us,” – Jenny pointed upwards, where a faint light was dancing on the walls.
– “It’s going to be a long climb,” – mumbled Maggie, assessing the high and steepness of the wall.
– “I’m coming with you.”
– “No, darling. It’s too steep for you,” – replied Maggie and opened her backpack to see what climbing gear she had with her.
– “There must be another way. I don’t believe your kids were able to climb up this high,” – Jenny tried to reason with Maggie. But Maggie was right; climbing wasn’t something Jenny could easily do at present. She felt her body becoming weaker and heavier with each passing minute.
– “You don’t know my kids. Those two are capable of everything and anything,” – said Maggie as she tightened the chalk bag around her waist.
– “You will come back this way, right?”
– “Of course. I want to know all about your time travel. I have the feeling that, if we help each other, we might be able to reverse at least some of the Old World’s damage. Stay on your toes, the Corporate Army is resourceful,” – said Maggie before beginning her claim.
Jenny watched Maggie slowly making her way up. However, when that became too painful for her she slid to the ground, exhausted. Since Maggie left her backpack behind, Jenny decided to search for weapons or anything else that could prove useful in case the enemy reappeared. Unfortunately, everything that could have been useful in Maggie’s pack needed her fingerprint to unlock.
Amongst the unusable weapons and what looked like camping gear, Jenny found food bars. She completely forgot that she didn’t eat anything substantial for a while. She was used to starvation and Spartan food rations, but the Ecotopian food bar looked too tempting to pass. The first bite was divine. It tasted like Jenny only imagined a real food would taste like. It felt light and delicate on her tongue while each bit delivered an explosion of flavours she never knew existed.
Maggie felt moist under her fingertips. The cave must have been higher than she initially predicted. With only 25 hours left to accomplish even half of what Maggie hoped she would she needed to pick up her pace.
Patrick didn’t have much time before the surveillance cameras, aided by the ever-present drones, were going to fish him out from the crowd. Luckily, he remembered his way towards the cargo yard, where he planned to steal one of the smaller aircraft. He was halfway through, when his watch unexpectedly beeped again, pointing him in the opposite direction.
Having her stomach full for the first time in a long time, Jenny felt blissfully tired. She tried to keep her eyes open for as long as she could but the tiredness overtook her body.
After reaching the narrow landing that led to the cave. She wiped the sweat running across her forehead, before slowly feeling her way through the rocks.
The closer she got to the cave, the clearer the voice became. However, neither of her kids was talking. It was clear that if her kids were inside, they weren’t alone. In case of emergency, she had a small gun behind her jacket and two knives up her sleeves.
Patrick was standing in front of the small doors, with the code on his watch ready to swipe across the reader. To his greatest surprise, what looked from the outside like a storage room, turned out to be an unattended observation room.
Two of ten screens hanging on the wall were showing Maggie up on a mountainside and Jenny asleep by, the foot of the mountain. Patrick swiftly zoomed in to see the coordinates of their location, before switching the image to another spot and clearing the history. He was about to leave when he heard movement on the other side of the door.
Since the room was tiny, there was no way he could hide. Instead, he took advantage of the bad light and moved behind the door. Once it opened, he was ready to fight. Fortunately, there was no need; Patrick couldn’t have been happier that a very machine created to spy on him was about to save him from the people, who programmed it.
Patrick’s drone came prepared with a fresh set of clothes to allow him to blend in with the rest of the Above population. The small chip at the bottom of the basket would let Patrick start one of the aircrafts, which was the only way out of the Above.
It wasn’t easy for Patrick to manoeuvre between people cramped in small spaces, rushing in every direction. His heart was pounding fast while his anxiety was slightly rising. He was following his drone closely. After taking a few shortcuts and pushing through the crowds, they finally got to a small docking station Patrick didn’t even know existed. Upon entering the station, the alarm went off. Patrick rushed towards the only aircraft. But his drone stayed behind, shielding Patrick from the unfriendly fire. While giving him enough time to take off.
Maggie was standing at the cave’s entrance, looking at a girl, who couldn’t have been much older than her kids. Marcus and Josephine ran towards her throwing their arms around her.
– “Mum,” – whispered Marcus. Maggie touched their faces and wiped their gigantic tears.
– “We’ll never, ever do it again. We are so sorry,” – Josephine promised solemnly, trying to control her sobbing.
– “It’s ok, all under control,” – Maggie attempted to comfort her daughter. – “But we have to leave right now,” – Maggie looked at the girl. “Come with us,” – she added after a short pause.
– “I can’t leave my friends behind,” – the girl shook her head.
– “We could come back for them,” – promised Maggie. At that moment, they all heard something heavy crashing to the ground.
– “Hurry, I’ll show you the way,” – offered the girl before putting down a small bonfire and hiding the few belongings she had behind the rocks. Maggie’s heart sunk when she saw how little the girl had and how precious those few possessions were to her.
– “Someone is waiting for us by the foot of the mountain,” – said Maggie.
– “Follow me,” – the girl turned a small torch on.
The three of them followed the girl down the steep stairs curved inside the heart of the mountain. When they reached the bottom, Jenny and Maggie’s backpack were gone. The smoke from the crash was visible for miles, easily attracting the eyes of the Corporate Army.
– “There is no time to look for your friend,” – said the girl and started making her way East towards the Old Bridge. At first, Maggie was reluctant, but since she had no idea how to find her way around without her equipment, she put their faith in the girl’s hands.
– “I’m going to take you to the edge of the forest. From there you’ll have to make your way to the bridge alone,” – said the girl, who knew her way around the dead forest like the back of her hand.
– “Thank you,” – replied Maggie gratefully.
The girl didn’t say much for the rest of the journey. She was silently enjoying the warm feeling she had in her heart. A feeling she last had when her parents were still alive. Seeing this strange woman, who risked everything to cross the bridge was heartwarming, giving her hope. The girl didn’t know what exactly, but her gut was telling her that keeping this family together and safe was very important. A long time ago she learned to listen to her feelings and rely on their collective wisdom. It took the four of them almost two hours to reach the edge of the dead forest.
– “This is where I leave you. The road through the marshland is the quickest and the safest. The Ground Guards never come this way. Try to avoid the flaying spotters if you can,” – said the girl.
– “Thank you so much for all your kindness and help. We will fix all that. I promise,” – Maggie took the girl’s hands in hers and kissed her cheeks before giving her whatever she could spare of her clothing and the equipment.
– “Hurry,” – urged the girl, before disappearing in the milky silk fog.
Maggie grabbed Marcus’ and Josephine’s hands and together they braved the marshland.
Right before leaving the cover of the marshland and the few remaining trees, in the corner of her right eye, Maggie saw a rapid movement. She wasn’t sure if that was an animal or a human, but it prompted her to pick up the pace.
When the bridge came into their view, Maggie started running, dragging the children behind. Josephine and Marcus were close to exhaustion. They haven’t slept in days and were hungry like never before. Nevertheless, they knew that to end this nightmare, they needed to push as hard as they knew how. When they left the cover behind, two more people emerged from the marshland running towards the bridge. Maggie pushed Marcus and Josephine in front of her, turned to face her opponents, ready to fight to protect her kids. But she stood down as soon as she realised who that was.
– “Jenny?!? What happened to you? You were gone when we came down,” – exclaimed Maggie.
– “I ate one of your food bars and fall asleep. Patrick woke me up,” – replayed Jenny.
– “You must have been starving. Those bars usually replace a full meal for four people,” – said Maggie.
– “Maggie?” – Patrick asked faintly while looking at the children.
– “Oh, sorry… Marcus, Josephine, this is Patrick, eeee…. your dad,” – Maggie’s heart was pounding fast.
Patrick moved towards the kids. Both were incredibly quiet and didn’t know how to react at first. Then Josephine extended her hand, and at that moment bright flashing lights came from the sky, blinding them all.
– “Freeze! You are under arrest!” – Boomed the voice through the speakers.