Arvid rummaged through the pack she kept strapped to her side. Slowly, she pulled out a scope. Attaching it to one of her pistols, she raised it to her face. Looking through the scope, she saw a closer view of the rotting flesh. Without hesitating, she pulled the trigger. The gunshot rang out, and the small boy stopped twitching as blood oozed from a hole in his head.
The girl gave an unearthly shriek. She gently lowered the boy to the ground and stood. She began to lurch towards Arvid, a fiery hatred burning in her eyes. She stumbled, her arms reaching out towards the woman. The piercing green eyes never left the her face.
Once again, Arvid raised the gun. Just as she pulled the trigger, the girl stumbled. The bullet hit her in the side, and she fell to the ground, screaming and sobbing. Arvid pulled the trigger once more. The shot rang in the field, and all was silent. The deed was done.
The group stared at the small bodies. There would be no burial; they would be contaminated. The birds wouldn't bother them anyway.
Idris walked over to Arvid and placed a hand on her shoulder; she promptly shrugged it off and placed her pistol back into its holster.
"We shouldn't have wasted that ammo. They were going to die anyway."
Idris recoiled. "Arvid. You just shot two children. Aren't you bothered by that?"
Her icy eyes met his chocolate brown ones. "You act as if I should be a sobbing wreck. I do not care for those already doomed to die. Neither should you."
She walked away from him. He stared, disgust obvious on his face.
Adish walked over; the man was pale, and he stared at the body of the girl. Her eyes were still open, but they no longer gleamed. They were as dull as wax, and it was horrible.
Idris turned to him. "I never really knew my sister; it's why I was in the city. My father asked me to evaluate her mental state. Now I know why he was worried."
The refugees slowly walked across the field. Many of them were crying; it reminded them too much of relatives they had lost to the war. Ekram walked to Gersemi's side. She had been crying.
"Um, hi Gersemi. I don't know if I ever thanked you for helping me after that airship raid. I just...er, wanted to let you know that, um, I'm here if ya ever need someone to talk to..."
She raised her eyes to his. "Thanks, Ekram. It's just-"
She paused. Tears sprang to her eyes, and Ekram fluttered his hands around her, not sure what to do. "You don't have to talk about it, you know."
Gersemi looked up at him and gave him a watery smile. "No, it's all right. I needed to talk to someone anyway. My daughter-"
"My daughter and I were in the town square when it started. Before they dropped the Sickness, that is. The airship hovered right above the center of the town square, only about twenty yards from us. Ekram, the troops poured out of it. They just started shooting- everything, everyone, anything that moved. My daughter and I ran, and I turned a corner into an old alleyway, but my daughter wasn't there with me. I looked back out, and I saw her, laying in the street, with a hole in her back. She was lying in a pool of her own blood-"
She began to sob, and Ekram slowly wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"She wasn't dead, though. She looked up at me, and saw me. And I started to run towards her. And then, I saw her eyes die. She just... went out like a light. She was gone forever, my daughter, Bern. She was only twelve. They took her away from me."
Ekram looked down at her. "I wish I could understand what you're going through. I never knew any of my family, and I've always been a loner. I lost nothing back there, but I'm rather glad of it now."
Gersemi nodded, and said, "I hope you realize you do now. We're all a family, now."
The group finally reached the end of the glade and came upon another forest, this one much denser than the previous. They were almost to the foothills of the mountains; this was their last obstacle. They began forward.
Adish walked beside Achada in the very back of the group.
"Achada, I'm worried. I think one of us is a spy."
Achada glanced at him incredulously. "A spy? Adish, why would you think that?"
"It's just... like in the woods. How did the Rebellion find us? Our old campsite was in the forest. There is no way they could have found that in an airship."
"Adish, if there was a spy, why aren't we dead now?"
"Maybe...maybe it wants to see where we go. Or how we survived. Or... I don't know, Achada. I just think one of us is... not right."
Several days later, they hadn't made much progress. The underbrush constantly tangled and ensnared their legs. It was like walking in slow motion; they hadn't even walked ten miles. Nothing of interest happened until the tenth day inside the forest.
They had made camp for the night; a small fire blazed, surrounded by the nine remaining refugees. One in particular, Xanthus, was fidgety. Xanthus was only seventeen. His golden hair gleamed in the flickering light of the fire. He was bored. Eventually, he rose and walked over to Adish, who was conversing with Achada.
"Adish, I'm going to scout ahead a bit. I'm going to go insane if I don't have anything to do soon."
"Sure, but you might want to ask Arvid for a gun. I don't want you wandering around alone. Do you have anyone who wants to go with you?"
Achada stood. "I'll go with him, Adish. I wouldn't mind some scouting, myself. We'll be back soon."
Adish nodded. "Be careful out there; watch for predators. I don't know much about the animals around here."
Xanthus warily approached Arvid. Ever since the incident with the chidren, everyone had been treating her like a monster. She didn't seem to care; in fact, Xanthus wondered if she even had the capacity to care.
"Arvid, I kind of need to borrow a gun. Achada and I are going to scout ahead-"
She thrust a pistol into his hands. He fumbled around and almost dropped it. Glancing back at her, he found himself meeting her steely gaze.
"Don't you dare waste my bullets. As far as I'm concerned, I could care less about what happens to you or the medic. If you damage that gun, I will kill you."
She then ceased acknowledging his presence, and raised her cold eyes to the stars.
Xanthus and Achada were just about to leave when the last member of their group sprinted over to them. Her name was Oriole. She was a fragile little thing, only sixteen. Her pale, almost white hair and light, light green eyes separated her from the rest of the group. She was from the Northern regions, and not much was known about her.
Xanthus hesitated. He really did not want too many people along for the trip; noise would attract predators. He opened his mouth to say no when Achada interrupted.
"Of course you can come. Let's move out."
The trio headed into the woods. After walking in a companionable silence for a half hour, they burst into a small little glade. There was a thin, burbling stream running across the small space. It would have been beautiful if the stream hadn't been red.
The three glanced at each other and began to sprint alongside the stream. Following it, they re-entered the forest and, a few yards away, spotted someone lying in the water.
Oriole started to walk towards the person before Achada grabbed her shoulder and jerked her back.
"Achada, he's bleeding! Look-"
"Oriole, think. We have no idea who that man is. He could have the Sickness for all we know. He might even be a Rebellion soldier."
Xanthus agreed with Achada. Why risk their lives for someone they didn't know? Still...
"Achada, I'm going to get closer. Do you want to come?"
The medic hesitated. He could be sick... it was clear he was injured, though...he couldn't hurt her in that state... she bit her lip. "Fine. Don't get too close, though. Oriole, I want you to stay here."
The girl nodded, and the other two made their way over to the man. Staying several feet back, Achada studied him. There was a huge gash on his side. The man's face was already white and waxy from blood loss. His lips moved, as if he were trying to talk to someone. Sweat beaded on his brow. Achada quirked her head. He didn't look like he had the Sickness; then again, you couldn't tell on the first day. Where had he come from?
Achada gestured for Oriole to come over. The girl, upon seeing the wound, put a hand to her face and looked away.
"Oriole, I need you to tell Adish we have to stay put for a few days. We found someone, and I mean to care for him. I just need to make sure he doesn't have the Sickness. Take Xanthus with you and head back to the camp. May I have the gun?"
Xanthus tossed the weapon over to the medic, and the pair ran off into the woods, leaving Achada alone with the stranger.
She was not sure what to do. If she didn't tend to that wound soon, he would die of blood loss. However, she didn't know if he had the Sickness.
Then, he opened his eyes.
His cracked, dry lips tried to form a word.
Achada found herself by his side in the stream. Forget the Sickness. She was a medic; she would help her patients at any cost. She took her pack off of her back and pulled out some sterilization spray and bandages.
She stripped him of his shirt and sprayed the gash. He cried out, and Achada stopped for a moment. She began to sing a quiet song, and he closed his eyes. She started to spray the wound again, and he tensed. She sang a bit louder, and the man finally relaxed. She started to bandage his side when the crashing of branches announced Adish's arrival.
"I can't believe this. Achada, who is he? Are you sure he's safe to-"
"Adish, even if he wasn't , I would not leave him to die."
Horror filled Adish's face. Mental images of Achada dying flitted through his head. "Achada, no. No. How could you do this? Get away from him, now!"
The medic looked up at him, and simply shook her head. "If he is infected, it is already too late for me. I will stay here and tend to this man. You will know if I am sick in a day. Come back then."
Adish's face drained of all emotion. "Very well. I only assumed you cared for us. I will go back and tell the others we may have lost our only medic."
With that, he turned and made his way back to the camp.