Isaac’s quiet words were, somehow, very deafening. It was followed by a stunned silence.
“What did you just say?” Toby asked.
“Why did you rescue me?” Isaac repeated.
Another silence. I was, frankly, shocked.
“Because…you’re a friend.” Anne said. It was the first time I saw that she was at a loss. We were totally unprepared for this. What we had anticipated what a totally happy welcome party.
“We didn’t want you to be taken away to some prison or settlement or whatever they’re called.” Toby added.
“I didn’t want to be rescued.”
What the hell?
I just went into a bamboo-sword fight with a maniac van driver, and now he’s saying this. Talk about gratitude.
“Because I want to go back to my family.” Isaac said. “They told me they found the settlement my family was put in. I want to go back.”
“But then you’ve just lost the fight.” I said. “You’re giving up without a struggle.”
“I don’t want to struggle.” Isaac said boldly, a manner that contrasted from the message. “I don’t know about you guys, but personally I don’t have that much willpower.”
“Don’t you care at all about freedom?” Anne asked.
“Freedom? Who cares about freedom? I don’t care about freedom, if it comes at the price of having to struggle to live every day of your life in some godforsaken national park, if the price is not to get to see your family again for who knows how long. If the freedom shop is gonna sell it for that cost, no, I’m not interested, sorry.”
“You want me to thank you? I have a big ego, but fine: thank you. Are you happy yet?” It sounded terribly sarcastic.
To my surprise, Toby landed a blow right in Isaac’s face. He fell over to the ground.
“Has some prison worm eaten into your brain?” Toby asked.
Isaac stared at Toby furiously.
“No, nothing has. In fact, it’s what I think. It’s what I frankly think. It’s not worth it, guys. It’s just not.”
Sophie tried to break the situation. “Let’s head back. The sun’s burning here. Let’s go before another van comes.”
“Or, we could go back using this van.” Toby said, smiling. “I’m sure the key’s still in there. Having an air-conditioned ride would be nice.”
It was the first time I realized that I haven’t been in an air-conditioned room for ages.
We went in to check the van. The car key was lying in the middle of the driver’s seat. I just noticed how the van seemed to stink, and Ididn’t want to get in. Luckily Anne gave me an excuse.
“Let’s not. If we just park it near the cabin it’s gonna bring attention to us.”
“True.” Toby said. “On the bikes, then. Let’s go.”
I walked to pick up my bike from the street. Its handles were burning, and so was the seat. The respective body areas that need to touch the handles and the seat felt like they were toasted.
As we road off, I looked back. I saw that the driver was stirring, and then he got up. He stared furiously at us as we rode away. I didn’t look back again.
“Tell me how you got here.” I said to Anne.
Anne shrugged. “We decided to change our plan and have Sophie spy on the building. It’s dangerous, of course, but we thought it was a good plan. Sophie saw that the van went to the direction that you were guarding, and she raced back to tell us. Then we quickly sped to find you being battered by a crazy van driver.”
I laughed. “Crazy, yes. I wonder how much energy he has.”
“Not much after Toby gave him a mega-whack.”
I laughed again, and the conversation ceased.
We continued to ride on silently, back towards what we now called home.
* * * *
It was night when we got back. After eating a little dinner of canned fish (brought back from town), we had a short discussion back at our cabins of our future plans. I described to Toby the location ride next to the rock cliff we’ve found the day ago (it now seemed like ages away) .
“We’ll check it out tomorrow, Toby said, yawning. He obviously had not found me as an entertaining storyteller.
We then proceeded to check what sort of supplies Sophie had stolen for us. Among the booty were five boxes of matches, candles, and even a Swiss-knife. Sophie had stolen all sort of things.
“Everything I could ask for.” Toby commented. He lit up one of the candles, and its small light shown in the darkness that covered us.
“We need more weapons.” I pointed out. “The bamboo spear worked well, and it’s easy to carry if it’s strapped to the back. However, I think we should make more. We should have at least a spare one for everyone at least.
“Certainly,” Anne said, “and what about the fold-tents or the sleeping bags?”
Sophie produced these from her bag. It certainly carried a lot. “Of the highest quality.” she said, smiling.
“I’m going to sleep.” Isaac announced abruptly. He hadn’t said anything since the van.
“Your will, my lord.” Toby muttered. “As my lord desires. We are forever in your debt. Our lives are bound to you and your word.”
Isaac heard that. He glared at Toby, then disappeared into his room.
No matter what we’ve been through together, squabbling would still be a part of life.
“I think I’ll go to sleep too. I’m exhausted.” I quickly said.
“You deserve the rest.” Anne replied. “You’ve received quite a lot of physical injury today.” She chuckled. “Go.”
* * * * *
I don’t know how many times this has happened, but once again I fell into my bed exhausted. I terribly missed showers. Now, late-night showers were no longer possible. Walking to a water source during the night was a big no-no. But without the showers, my body felt sticky, especially because of the fact that there wasn’t any air-conditioning to help me cool down. But still, I slept. However, unlike normal, I didn’t wake up late in the next day. Instead, I woke up at about five. Toby had waken me up.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, still confused if whether it was the day before or not. My body ached like hell from being thrown on the ground multiple times.
“Isaac’s gone.” Toby whispered.
“What? He’s dead?”
“No, not gone like that. He went away. He took his bike and his belongings.”
“How long has he been gone? Where is he going?” I asked.
“I have no idea. I think he’s going back there to be recaptured or something. I’ve set Anne and Sophie off towards town five minutes ago.
You took quite some time to be waken up.”
Yes, Isaac, that is totally the best way to show how much you thank me.
I leapt off the bed, got my bamboo spear and umped on my bike and pedaled away. I was closely followed by Toby. We rode fast. We had to catch up with Anne and Sophie, and then we also had to catch up with Isaac.
“Isaac’s not a fast biker.” I said to Toby. “I’m doubt that if he didn’t leave much earlier he would have got very far.”
“We can’t be sure. I have no idea what Isaac will do when he’s desperate.”
After about ten minutes of hard riding, we caught up with Anne and Sophie. They were biking pretty quickly themselves. “Hey guys.” I called over to them.
“Hi John,” said Sophie, “are you here to recapture your best friend again?”
“Yes, certainly.” I replied. “And I can tell you, this is the last time I’m doing it. No more crazy van drivers or speed biking for a guy known as Isaac again for me.”
“And no more riding fast during the night. It’s as scary as hell.” Toby said. I was surprised. Toby being scared? That’s an impossibility!
When Anne pointed that out, Toby said, “No, really. I don’t want to meet some soldier patrol group while I’m biking at like more than 35 km per hour. I’ll crash into them or I’d be so scared I’d scream and my bike would run over right into the sides. Either that, or I’ll just faint and piss in my pants.” We all chuckled.
“Nice.” I commented, all while laughing. “Let’s hope it’s the last time we’re doing this. With luck we won’t have any wet pants.”
Anne gave a small laugh. “You’re not gonna clean any of that in the river. It’s gonna pollute it. I’m not drinking from that.”
“We seem to have quite a bit of sense of humor even in the most un-humoring situations, don’t we.” Sophie said to no one in particular.
“Sure. I should’ve told a knock-knock joke to that van driver. He’d have enjoyed the break.” I said.
“He’d have battered your brain to shreds.” Toby replied. “I wouldn’t have been very delighted to arrive at the scene finding your body parts disconnected. It would have been rather…unnerving.” Toby wasn’t focusing on his riding. His bike swerved and nearly crashed into a bush. He swore.
“Alright, no more funny jokes or talking about anything unrelated to our task. Failure to abide will result in twenty push ups when we get back to the cabin. This rule is enforced starting now.”
Anne, you just destroyed the light mood of a task force with a dark mission.
We continued to ride for about twenty minutes more or so at a high speed. However, suddenly, my bike came across something and tripped over. I fell down and my body rolled over on the road.
“John, what happened?” Toby shouted. The others quickly hopped off their bikes and came to me. Toby, meanwhile, looked at what my bike went over. “It’s a water bottle.” Toby said. He gave it closer inspection. “Isaac’s!”
Meanwhile, my body felt like it was on fire. It was my bottom that hit the road, and I could feel that it had been badly scratched.
“Are you okay?” Anne asked.
“No! Do I look like I’m okay?”
“I didn’t bring my first-aid kit. I didn’t expect an accident.”
“Do you think any bones are broken?” Sophie inquired.
I tried lifting my aching arms and legs. “No, I don’t think so.” I said.
“Can you go on?” Toby asked. “I think Isaac must be near. He dropped his water bottle here.”
“Well, there isn’t an option.” I said. My body was terribly pained. I tried to stagger to my feet. Toby had to help met get up. I slowlywalked towards my bike, got on it and pedaled slowly.
“We’ll go a bit slowly.” Toby said.
We continued to ride slowly.
It wouldn’t be until about twenty minutes later that we found our target.