14:49, January 17, near Tree Hill, North Carolina


Carefully shifting his weight back and forth to be less conspicuous, Lucas made his way down the old bicycle path on the outskirts of town. Plants had grown over parts of the path, and he was careful not to step on any branches or leaves. Tucked inside his knapsack was a notebook written in code and a hollowed out copy of The Giver, with a slender transistor radio situated inside - for emergencies only. The notebook would come in handy, if everything went as planned. It had every other time, but there was no way of knowing if it failed until he was in it to the end.

Once he reached the small, nearly dry creek bed that ran under the path, he diverted his walk to walk along the creek. In the distance, he could see his destination: a ramshackle old cabin that time - and the authorities - had forgotten. After everything that had happened the past few weeks, this would be a welcome, albeit brief, reprieve.

He knocked at the door - once, twice, three times - and the voice on the other side said, "is that you, Luke?" as they opened the door.

"Hi, mom," Lucas said, embracing his mother. "You really need to have a better security system when you're out here."

"Good to see you too," Karen said with a laugh, "Keith and I have a good one at home though, and when's the last time you saw anyone out here anyway?"

"The first time could always be the last, you know."

"You don't have to worry about us; we're doing fine."

"The inn is working out for you two, then?"

"You'd be surprised what you'd overhear if you'd listen to people when they think no one's listening," she said, "it's all in here." She held up an identical notebook to the one Lucas was carrying and tapped the cover, and gave him a conspiratorial wink.

"Have you heard anything about Peyton?" he asked. "I thought maybe with you being over in Point Peters -"

Karen frowned and placed her hand on Lucas's shoulder in a comforting gesture. "You know if I heard anything about Peyton, I'd find a way to tell you faster than this."

"I know."

They swapped notebooks; Lucas flipped through the pages of his mother's neat, distinct handwriting and Keith's sloppy scrawl and he smiled. "Thanks, mom."

"Say nothing of it," she said, slipping his notebook into her woven tote bag.

"If we're going to get home before nightfall, we should -"

"Same time next week?"

"Count on it."

"If you ever get a chance to get over to Point Peters, we'd be glad to have you at the inn. Any of you. Dinner'd be on the house, and Keith would love to see you again."

"I know," he said, "I doubt it'd be any time soon though."

"I know," she echoed his words with a sad smile, "but, it'd be nice."

"It would."

He watched his mother walk away from the cabin, heading north - back to Point Peters, back to the life she'd forged for herself in this new society - away from him.


19:21, January 17, Tree Hill, North Carolina


Haley pored over Karen's notebook by flashlight. "It appears as though there's a small group of Shadow supporters based outside of Point Peters," she said, peering closer at the page.

"Is there anything important about the group?" Nathan asked.

"I'm not sure," she said, "I'm still trying to figure that out."

"Yeah, as if we could win in a physical fight anyway," Brooke said, as she played with a nail file. Nathan and Lucas turned to glare at her, as she continued with her statement, "I mean, we're smart and all and we have all sorts of contacts, but we're not the strongest group out there."

"Those contacts are why we could win one," Lucas said, "there's no way to win this war fighting alone; we need them as much as they need us."

"They have weapons," Haley said. "I'm not sure what, exactly, but Keith mentions it once or twice."

"All we have are Dan's old gun and those knives you found in the woods," Nathan said, gesturing to Lucas, "our firepower is minimal."

"Are you suggesting that we take on a suicide mission to get our hands on those weapons?" Lucas asked.

"It wouldn't be suicide if we took them by surprise."

Haley and Brooke exchanged a frantic look.

"We leave at sunrise."

"We leave for where?" Mouth asked, walking out of the communications bay, headed for the kitchen. "Is this just a Scott brothers thing, or is it open for anyone to join?"

"We're going to try to take down a Shadows splinter group outside Point Peters - or at least get their weapons," Lucas said. "If you want to join - well, can one of you two take over the radios?" He turned to Haley and Brooke.

Haley nodded. "Yeah, sure, I'll do it. Strength in numbers, after all."

"We leave at sunrise," Mouth repeated.


07:25, January 18, Tree Hill, North Carolina


The three men crept out the door as the sun first broke over the horizon, casting the darkness into light. It was a chilly morning, yet they had to travel as light as they could. It would be an all-day journey, and if they were successful, they'd have more cargo coming back.

Brooke and Haley pulled back the sheet acting as a curtain and watched as they walked off into the distance.

"If anything happens -" Brooke said, wringing her hands.

"It's just you, me, and Skills."

"How long do you think we could last without the guys?"

"We have Skills, for one, and we aren't helpless. If something happens, we contact Karen."

"Okay," Brooke said, with an uncertain tone, "I think someone needs to go be Radio Girl now, though."

Haley laughed. "Radio Girl. I think I like it."

-to be continued-