Morning OrangeI spotted Gia up ahead. She hadn’t gotten far at all, and although she was hobbling as quickly as she could, she had only made it halfway through the woods. Ori was slowing me down. I was almost dragging him, because his little legs could only move so fast. The Police were smart enough not to run after us on foot. I heard them stepping into Hovers.
Ori and I had almost reached the forest. I could see Gia, and she saw the alarm in my eyes. I started to cough, but I forced my legs to move. I yanked my brother alongside me.
I wanted to cry when I heard their Hovers stir to life. Even the simplest mental math revealed that we had no way to outrun them. But now we had entered the forest.
Gia had stopped on the other side.
I shouted, “Go! Gia, run!”
The Hovers were right behind us. I’d never seen them navigate through trees before.
We froze. I tried to move. I used all my strength, but my muscles were like molasses, and what little motion I could make did not move my body at all. It took me a moment to recognize that pitch ringing in my ears. Only then did I notice that I was suspended above the ground. My neck bent as slowly as honey drops from a jar. My whole body was glowing orange. I had been shot by float gun. Even without turning my head, I knew my brother had been too.
I prayed that Gia would escape. But the other Hover went straight toward her, and she froze by herself, simply out of fear. They floated her anyway. That was the last thing I remembered.
I awoke in an Auto. Ori drooled on my arm, asleep, his hands bound just like mine. I was extremely uncomfortable. They hadn’t bothered to take off our packs before they bound our wrists. On my left Gia was wide awake. Her eyes flitted around the Auto, intently staring out the window and at the Policemen’s faces. She had a determined look on her face, an intensity characteristic of her. She was learning everything she could, and her motives were unmistakable.
She shot me a warning glance that told me to keep quiet. I looked out the window. The lights that I guessed to be National City were just a speck on a dark horizon. The sky had a look of early morning. I knew that soon the sun would rise.
The Policemen laughed. One of them sipped a beverage from a mug.
“A royal pain, that one,” the driver joked.
The other nodded. “Without a doubt. But she has a plan for everything.” He almost whispered when he added, “I’d be afraid contradict her.”
Ori woke with a start. “Arcana,” he whimpered, “where are we?”
The driver turned around, “Well look who’s up!” He was eerily cheerful.
The other swallowed. I almost jumped when I realized that I recognized him. He knew my dad.
Gia addressed the second, and I knew that she recognized him too. “Where are we going?”
He didn’t answer. The driver grinned. “We’re going on a little adventure. You’re going farther from the National City than you’ve ever been!”
“How far are we, exactly?” Gia asked politely, still addressing the second Policeman.
The driver laughed. “Nearly a thousand miles, kids! And what do you know? Here’s our stop.” Traveling at top speed an Auto could cover about 250 miles per hour. I tried to recall my geography, but I had thought that all this was just wasted space.
The Auto landed quickly.
“All right you kids, out!” the driver said with a wide grin.
Obediently, we grabbed our bags and slowly descended to the ground. I hugged Ori to my side as best I could with my hands bound together.
The first Policeman rolled down his window as the second opened his door. He approached us, carrying a weapon meant for only one purpose. The three of us faced the two of them, and I shuddered in a moment of terrible understanding.
“Alright kids,” the first Policeman said out the window. “Everyone turn around.”
Ori looked up at me.
“Kids, turn around now.”
Gia interrupted, softly. She looked at the second man only, undaunted by the gun. “What’s going to happen to us, Mr. Lumberton?” That was his name! I had been trying to remember.
He seemed startled that she knew it.
Mr. Lumberton muttered something incoherent.
“Turn around!” the first Policeman barked, clearly annoyed at Lumberton’s lack of professionalism. “Pete, just do it.”
“Mr. Lumberton,” Gia said softly. “Are you going to kill us?”
Mr. Lumberton rubbed his temple, but then returned his hand to his weapon.
“Shut up!” the first Policeman yelled. “Pete just get it -- ”
But he never finished his sentence. Lumberton pushed a button on his uniform and his colleague fell unconscious on the controls.
I had no idea he had it in him. Mr. Lumberton stepped back. Apparently neither did he.
“Run!” he muttered to us, wiping his dripping brow, and quickly he returned to the Auto and started tapping away at the controls.
We didn’t hesitate. I never looked back as we darted into the trees.
It was difficult to run without the balance of our arms, but we managed to sprint until we were well out of sight.
The sun just peeked over the horizon and brilliant streaks painted the sky. I felt the cautious freedom of the nearly rising sun. Mr. Lumberton had to have known the danger he made for himself. Ori and Gia were both safe! We had all survived! I smiled to myself. I supposed the world does seem darkest just before the dawn.
A loud voice made Ori jump. “Nobody move!” A huge dark figure stepped out from the trees. His weapon was loaded. His tone left no room for argument. “You’re all coming with me.”