We moved silently through the roads of the national park. It was already dark, but we were still pedaling at full speed, as if we weren’t afraid of hitting any car that might drive through. There was no need to be afraid. There weren’t any cars, not any longer.
As we rode, I thought of Isaac. At times he was fine, but at times he was the most annoying person in the world, but still, he was a companion not to be lost. No one would argue that he was the smartest in our group, and even if his view of the world was always on the negative side, his intelligence might come handy later on.
Also, what kind of a friend would leave another to be captured by enemies, awaiting an unknown fate? It was crazy. No, we will have to rescue Isaac, even if we risked being captured ourselves. I didn’t think that it was very likely that we could rescue Isaac. The soldiers had guns, while we had none. All we had were kitchen knives. I imagined myself running into an enemy camp waving a kitchen knife and yelling war cries, but I did not chuckle to myself. It was not a comforting thought.
Toby, Anne and Sophie were riding beside me. Sophie looked exhausted, which was not surprising, considering that she had rode hard all day. She had told us the whole story when we had reached our cabins.
Sophie and Isaac had been looking through the supermarket for food, albeit in vain. There was very little food left. They had already visited the equipment shops, and already got tents and other camping stuff.
They left at around 4. It was a dangerous plan with a high price, which was the risk of being captured with ease. That price had been paid generously. Sophie and Isaac were zipping through the town’s streets stealthily (so Sophie said), but while they were nearly out of town, they found that one of the taller buildings had been changed into a watchtower. They were spotted, and soldiers streamed out of the building immediately. Sophie had pedaled away quickly and tried to call Isaac to hurry up. However, Isaac’s bicycle tripped over, and Isaac was sent sprawling into the ground. “It wasn’t a pleasant sight,” Sophie had said, “and the soldiers quickly surrounded him. I couldn’t have rescued him, because there were so many soldiers, and by stopping back to look I was risking capture myself. I quickly rode into one of the smaller alleyways.” From there, Sophie had escaped the pursuers.
It just occurred to me that Sophie’s visit into the town had probed the enemy forces for us. If a group of soldiers could immediately storm out from a building and surround a panicking ‘free’ citizen, then that means that the town must have quite a large garrison protecting it. It wasn’t so surprising, actually. Even though it wasn’t a large town, it was situated near the national park, and such a wild place would be a haven for refuges (like us). Placing a large contingent of soldiers to capture anyone trying to forage for resources was not a bad idea.
This time, I chuckled to myself. I’d never thought of myself as a military commander, but somehow I was thinking more and more like one. Probing enemy forces. I would never have thought of using that word before. Placing a large contingent of soldiers to capture anyone trying to forage for resources. How did I ever think of that?
I then realized that we didn’t have a plan for rescuing Isaac at all. Storming in would be retarded and sure to fail. We needed something, even just slightly, more intelligent than what I’d thought of. I decided to ask Toby about it.
“We can’t be sure,” Toby replied, “because we haven’t seen where Isaac is kept. We need to know that, and I’m still not sure how we can figure that out.”
“We’ll just need to look around.” Anne said. “We need to find him. There’s no other way. We need all of us around if we’re going to survive this. Four heads are better than three.”
The woods around us were very dark, and you felt as if something might jump out from it and pounce on you at any second. Perhaps there were tigers around here. Of course, this was simply paranoia, but in the streets of a deserted national park at nighttime, it seemed perfectly plausible.
I thought of a lot of things on the way. I thought of my parents. I really missed them, and I wondered where they were. I had barely thought of things other than food, shelter, and escape from the pesky soldiers, because I was always so busy. But whenever there was spare time, time when my mind wasn’t preoccupied, I would start thinking of things like home. School. Friends. Parents. Homesickness was starting to bite into me, and it made my mind linger for the comfortable pillow and bed of my room. I longed for the smell of fried bacon that drifted out of the kitchen in the mornings, the green tea, everything. It was very infuriating to know that bacon did not grow on trees. I had money. But now, money is worthless. You could be the richest man in the country, but there were no shops to spend the money. Bacon could not be bought, even if you had all the wealth of the world.
They were depressing, the thoughts I had, and so I tried to shut them out of my mind. I tried different tactics, such as humming songs or trying to count to a thousand. It was infuriating. I always lost track at around the two hundredths or so, and when I got once to the three hundredths, I became so distracted that my bicycle managed to swerve out of the road, and I landed right in the bushes to the laughter of my friends.
Thank you so much for laughing, I feel so great about myself.
I continued to ride on silently. I listened to Toby and Anne discussing their plans on rescuing Isaac. The discussion amounted to nothing. Since they did not know where Isaac was kept, they could not plan how to get into it. And they had no idea of how to find Isaac, except for trying to run around the town, which would be suicide.
A very depressing ride, indeed.
* * * * *
We probably reached town at around midnight. It had been hard biking. I was exhausted, and the others were probably not fully charged and ready to search the town for Isaac.
But we had no time. Our best chance of finding Isaac would be during the night. We would probably be seen in three seconds during the day, and then be captured. That would not help the situation.
We rode silently down the dark street. There were no patrols on this one, or if there were, they weren’t visible. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest. It was beating faster and faster. I felt like I just wanted to turn back and ride to the safety of the woods.
But that would not happen until we found Isaac.
“There’s no way we can see where Isaac is.” Anne whispered. “None of these buildings have signs or things.”
“We still have to look around. There must be a way to know.” Toby whispered back. “At least, there must be guards in front of the door.
I’m sure Isaac isn’t the only person who was captured. There must be others too, campers in the national park who came out to find supplies.”
“Hopefully.” I said absentmindedly.
We continued riding. We came to a junction, and there it was.
It was the old administration center of the city. At least four or five soldiers were guarding it. We stopped riding immediately.
“This must be the place.” I said. “Or otherwise there wouldn’t be troops guarding it.”
“What if you’re wrong?” Toby asked. “We can’t try to sneak in there and get Isaac out, but then find that there aren’t any prisoners in there.”
“Hmm…it’s still the only place. John has a point. If it was just some normal place for the new revolutionary officials to meet, there wouldn’t be four or five soldiers. I don’t think a high ranking official worthy of protection would come to a town as small as this. There should be concerns that are more pressing than capturing campers.”Anne took our a binocular (yes, a binocular- what kind of wonders did she put in her little bag?) and she began peering at the building.
“Let’s do a gangster attack. Bomb it!”
Anne shot a look at me. “Really? This isn’t the time for this kind of nonsense.”
I’m sorry, Anne. But I’ve been serious for the whole day already. I need to release my emotions.
But suddenly, footsteps were heard. We instinctively ducked into a building. Not again, I thought. Last time we had barely escaped. We probably won’t escape a second near-dash.
They were a patrol group, and the soldiers were talking rather loudly (which isn’t exactly the smartest thing for a patrol group to do).
“Yeah, the buses are coming tomorrow. We’ve got the prisoner’s families sorted out.” I heard a soldier say. They didn’t see us.
Yeah, the buses are coming. We’ve got the prisoner’s families sorted out. What could that mean. I put the question up to Anne and
Toby. It was Sophie who answered.
“I think it means the buses are coming to pick up the captured people. They probably found what settlement the families are in or something, so they can send them to the right place.”
“Hmm…buses coming in?” Toby said. “That means we’ve got to act fast, or our chance of rescuing Isaac will be lost forever.”
There was silence for about a minute or so. Then, Anne spoke.
“Guess what, guys. I’ve got a plan.”