OK, here is the start of the sequel to An Uneasy Partnership, for those of you that requested. Yeah, I do write fast! I'm kind of feeling my way through the dark on this one, so bear with me! Please review. x
The wind whistled, and fluttered the ragged clothes of the group of people huddled together, even in the shelter of the trees they weren't shielded fully from the cold gale. They all shivered and plunged hands deeper into pockets, drawing together to share warmth. A little way down the hill, through the branches, they could see the large warehouse sprawling in the fading light. They all watched anxiously for a sign of the two of their number who had gone ahead to check the coast was clear.
Alexis shifted from one foot to another, shoulders hunched. She felt a tug on her sleeve and looked down to see the small boy with brown eyes had moved over next to her.
"Hey Qasim." She gave the boy a warm smile.
"Can we go into the big building yet?" he whispered.
"Not yet," she whispered back. He put his arms around her waist and she ruffled his hair. "We're just waiting for John and Alan to come back and tell us it's safe. Then we can go in."
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a battered packet. The purple wrapper was creased and faded. With cold fingers she unwrapped it to reveal a small lump of Cadbury's chocolate. Qasim's eyes lit up. Over to the left, his mother Raheela was looking up at the sky through the branches apprehensively, listening and watching. Everyone had one eye on the sky nowadays.
She caught sight of Alexis with the chocolate. "You don't have to give him that, Ali," she murmured.
"No it's fine, let him have it." She passed the piece to Qasim who took it carefully in his gloved fingers. "It's the last bit, so enjoy it."
The trees rustled, and they all tensed. Then relaxed when the two men emerged from behind the ridge.
"It's clear, sort of," said the one called John. "It will do for one night and then we'll have to move on."
The small band set off down the hill.
It had been about six months since Alexis' encounter with Starscream, give or take, although she wasn't sure. She hadn't looked at a calendar for a long time, and no one could even tell what day of the week it was any more.
After that fateful night on her birthday, she and Sari had made their way back to her dad's house. They had staggered up the track, past the ruins of the barn which Starscream had burst out of. The two of them had stayed there for days, eating soup and drinking cups of tea, watching the news. The city was reported to have been subjected to a 'terrorist attack.' As the days went by the and the bruises on the girls' bodies began to fade, more and more reports pored in from across the world, more attacks, across Europe, the States, Japan…
Exhausted world leaders held bewildering press conferences, where they assured their restless nations that all was being done to stop the perpetrators. Alexis tried the phone number she had given to call her dad again and again. No one answered.
After the third week, Sari decided to fly to India to be where her mother was. Alexis drove her down to Heathrow airport and they exchanged a tearful farewell. Something was in the air, everyone felt it. People moved here and there with pinched and fearful faces.
"Are you going back to your dad's?" Sari asked, wiping her eyes on her sleeve.
Alexis had nodded. Where else was there?
"I don't think you should stay there," Sari whispered. "He might…"
But there was no need to finish the sentence. They had hugged fiercely one more time, then Sari had walked through the departure gate and onto the plane.
Five days later, Alexis woke up to find the power was off, and there was no signal on her phone. She had walked down into the village to find it was the same there. People went into their homes and waited patiently for the power to come back on. It never did. The next day the water supply stopped.
Most of the village congregated in the pub, and stories were swapped. London was ablaze, and the smoke could be seen for over a hundred miles. One man came back from a supermarket bruised and bloodied- people were rioting as food began to run out. No one could access the internet or a phone signal. They were cut off from the rest of the world.
One day a group of them had set off for the nearest town, Alexis among them. As they approached down the empty parkway, a huge helicopter could be seen flying towards the centre. Certain it was help at last, they had all cheered and whooped for joy, except Alexis, who had urged them to hang back and wait.
That was the day that they first saw a decepticon. It transformed and proceeded to blast the town, sending people screaming and running for cover. Alexis and her group had hidden in an underpass. The terrible sounds of the explosions and screams had seemed to go on forever. Afterwards they emerged to find the town devastated and silent, plumes of black smoke contaminating everything, bodies lying in the rubble. They had taken what food they could find and fled, feeling ashamed, like they were robbing the dead.
Autumn passed and winter arrived in the UK. Alexis brought all the food down into the pub, and others did the same. The pub was chosen because the old building had the means to burn wood for heat. They slept all together and shared the food as best they could, burning furniture in the fireplace. In those dark months thirteen people died, mostly the elderly.
Two months ago Alexis had left the village with a small group of others. She had gone up to her dad's and taken matches, clothes, candles, any food she could gather. Then she'd gone into the barn and taken some of her tools. Lastly she folded up the wad of notes she had taken when she'd worked on Starscream, and stowed them carefully in her coat. She had locked the door, out of habit rather than in the hope that the house would be secure, and then left, without looking back.
They had avoided the large towns- smoke hung over most of them- and had kept to the country, sheltering and eating whenever they could. They had picked up a few people too along the way- including Raheela and Qasim, whose dad had gone missing in Leicester when the decepticons had attacked. Raheela had told Alexis about a jet plane she had seen over the city. They had thought it was the army come to help them. Until it started shooting…
They were almost at the large warehouse. As they approached the wide open door, through the gathering darkness Alexis saw a faint glow inside. She glanced over at John.
"Now you see why we can't linger here," he said grimly.
Inside, along one wall of the warehouse, cubes were stacked on top of each other. Some were about the size of a washing machine, others were smaller, enough even for a human to lift, albeit with difficulty. They gave off a faint white light.
"I think this is a store for their energy source", he continued, as Alexis stared up at the glowing pile. "Which means that one of them could be here at any moment." He sighed. "But it's getting dark and we're all cold and tired. I don't know when the next chance to rest will be. We should get out of here as soon as it's light."
"I would actually murder for a cup of tea right now."
They all lay in the dark on the floor, squashed together for warmth. Qasim was already asleep- they all envied the six year old boy's ability to go to sleep anywhere. Raheela lay beside him, absently running her fingers gently through her son's hair. Alexis lay top-toe next to her. They had walked through the huge room with the glowing cubes and down a concrete passage, into a small office space. Alexis had rummaged through the desks and found a pair of scissors. They had all cut each other's hair- Alexis' had got rather long. Now it was back to chin length, the way she liked it. The scissors had been given to a member of the group to look after. Everything they found now was hoarded carefully.
"Mmmm, a cup of tea, and toast and marmite."
That was Alan's voice. Afterwards there was a short whispered argument about whether marmite was missed much or not. Others joined in.
"I miss driving my car."
"Watching X factor with a takeaway."
The conversation skirted cautiously around the topic of loved ones missing or dead. Raheela lay quiet and Alexis was sure she was thinking about her husband. She thought of her dad, and wondered whether he was alive, and if so, where. In her minds eye she had him safe on the base, trying to contact her and playing a crucial part in battling the decepticons. And Sari too, she hoped she and her mum were safe…
As she drifted into sleep she found herself in a nightmare, they same nightmare she'd had for weeks now. She and Sari were back in the black cab. Sari was in the back, moaning in terror. Alexis was lying on her back across the front seats, and the shriek of twisting metal filled her ears, as the roof of the car buckled, moving lower, and lower, and lower, and Starscream's laughter rang out as the car was crushed underfoot…
She woke shivering. Weak daylight was shining through the small window and the group were stirring. Alexis sat up against the wall and rubbed her arms in an effort to get warm.
Qasim bounded over to say good morning and she flashed him a smile.
She felt so sorry for the little boy, this was his life now, and it didn't show any signs of changing. He clambered onto her lap and she hugged him with her spare arm as she fished in her pocket, and for the millionth time, she started to pour over the notes she had made in the barn all those months ago.
Just then there was a sound above them. All heads jerked up and voices ceased, as the noise grew louder and louder, closer and closer. The howl of jet engines…