“Fifty soldiers?” Toby exclaimed, before swearing unprintably. “That’s ridiculous!”
“That Great Leader must be pretty obsessed about catching rebels in the forest.” I muttered.
“What the hell are we going to do against fifty soldiers? There’s no way we can beat that many?” He then stopped and paused. “Well, I guess we don’t have a choice. Preparation time?”
I blinked. “You’re not planning on fighting fifty?”
“What other choice do we have?”
“Run.” said Anne. “We have to run. That’s our only choice. If we fight against that many soldiers we’re just gonna be run over.”
“There’s soldiers crawling everywhere.” said Toby. “We’ll only get caught, and this time without a defensible position inside walls. All of us fell silent. There remained that one option: surrender. But no one would say it.
“Guess what. I have an idea.” Sophie said. All eyes quickly focused on her. Sophie cleared her throat. “Remember what the soldiers said about the island of Estina?” Toby’s eyes widened at that, although I couldn’t be sure if it was because he was excited about the idea of the island of Estina or because of staring at Sophie. I guessed the latter, but I was personally excited about Estina. I could get to what Sophie was talking about. She wanted us to go there, to the last free area of the nation.
“It would be…dangerous to go there.” Anne said softly. “But it’s worth a try. We don’t have any more cards in the hat. This is our last plan.”
“Where is Estina exactly?” asked Toby. “Do we have any maps?”
“I had one in my bag. We got it from town and I never took it out.” We slowly walked back into into the walls and Anne laid down her map. She pointed to where the national park is. “We’re here. Estina is to the northeast, so it is…here.” she pointed next to a medium-sized island. “We aren’t too close to the sea. We’d have to travel about eight hundred kilos to get to the coast directly off from Estina.”
Isaac groaned. “That’s very far. We’re gonna take ages if we were gonna bike to there. The open roads would be just as dangerous as the national park too. Even more crawling with soldiers, probably. If we were trying to avoid soldiers I’d say we dug a hole into the ground and stayed there.” I didn’t know if it was a joke or not and if it was it was a really bad one.
“We don’t have to use the open road. We can go through kilos and kilos of no-man’s land. I doubt they have soldiers patrolling the whole country. They don’t have that much manpower.”
Anne nodded slowly. “We have our plan then. We have to move very quickly. I guess that we should be read yo leave by tonight. There’d be no time to rest. We gotta pack up. We can’t take anything we can’t carry on a bike, so we’d have to be a bit selective with the supplies. I think we have enough fresh water, even if the river is poisoned.” Anne sighed. “I can’t even believe the soldiers chose to poison a clean river. That’s just…diabolical.”
“Everything about this revolution is diabolical.” I muttered. “Alright, better get moving then. Someone help me pack up the tents. They could still be useful.” A thought came to me and I turned to Toby.
“You didn’t get to use the grenade, did you?”
“Oh, no I didn’t. Do you want to take it with us?”
“We need to.” I replied. “It’s our only card to play if we find soldiers. A grenade would be of help.”
“Alright then.” Toby said. “To work, guys.”
It took about two hours to finish packing everything up. Most of the time was taken with arguing about what we would take and what was a waste of space, but the arguments were mostly stupid and boring. It was a relief to have all the packing done and I was the first to sit on my bike, ready to ride. As I sat there waiting for the rest to finish, I wondered to myself what would happen if fifty soldiers arrived early. There was nowhere to run that would not have the outcome of being outrun.
Soon enough, everyone was on the bikes. Before we went, Anne said, “Alright, I just want to remind everyone about what to do if soldiers are on the road. Get out your gun quickly and shoot. And don’t stop cycling. We have to get out of the situation fast. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Isaac said, while the rest of us simply nodded. I biked off and we were on our way to Estina.
* * * * *
After biking for about thirty minutes or so, I realized that once again I was in that uncomfortable situation of biking in the night. I remembered that the last time I did it was biking to find Isaac, who had run away from the cabins. I smiled to myself in the dark. It all seemed like a distant memory, after what we’ve been through after that. Isaac running away had seemed so big at that time. We’ve been through much worse since then.
Another thought dawned on me that I’d almost been carelessly riding the last time I was on the bike at night. This time, I couldn’t afford to be so careless, because the soldiers were all over the place. At least when you bike during the day you can see if there’s a soldier in front of you. But here we had no lights, nothing. The only advantage about the night is that soldiers also can’t see you, so all of us kept silent, as to not give it away by making a lot noise.
We biked very quickly, however. In fact, three hours was all it took to leave the national park. We had a quick talk, and decided to walk our bikes out through a part of the forest instead of going through the normal entrance, because we weren’t sure if soldiers would be posted there or not. When we left, however, I breathed in relief. No encounters with soldiers. So far, we were still lucky.
When we were clear from the national park, on the main road that led to the town I remembered so well, Anne held up her hand and stopped her bike. We all stopped.
“What?” Isaac asked, but his voice was almost a whisper. Our soldier paranoia was not going to be easily cured.
“What road do we go through next?” Anne replied. “We’re not gonna go running right into that town are we? The last time we were there a lot of soldiers were already stationed there. We’re bound to get into a lot of trouble if we pass through it.”
“Get out a map.” I said. “See what way there is to go through.”
“We don’t have a map of this area.” said Anne.
I cursed silently. If it’s all going to be as hard as this we’d never make it through. “Well, how did we get to Greyville last time then?”
“That one was easy.” Toby said. “There was the big highway that led from the national park to Greyville. We just had to stay a bit off-road to avoid soldiers and we could get there easily. But Greyville is to the opposite direction. There isn’t a highway from here that leads to the sea.”
“There is a highway.” said Anne. “I’ve been on it when my family went on vacation to the beach. The problem is that I’m thinking that now that since it’s leading to the sea, it might be fully of soldiers carrying supplies and such.”
“Well, if there isn’t any other way we will need to use it.” I said. “Either that or we return to the national park, which is a pretty hopeless place. What do you people think?”
“The national park, maybe? Maybe we can hide and try to avoid capture?” Isaac asked hopefully.
Toby shook his head. “There’s no way we can escape the soldiers in the national park. We’ll run into one of ‘em one of these days. At least by traveling to Estina it’s not going to be so hopeless. We might run into the soldiers, but there’s still a chance that we won’t. And remember- not all the people on the highway are gonna be soldiers. There has to still be some civilians who are carrying supplies. They don’t need soldiers for protection. And we aren’t scared of anyone who doesn’t carry a gun.” I thought of the crazy van driver from some time ago, but I then remembered that he did carry a gun, even if he didn’t get to use it, so technically he didn’t fit into Toby’s list.
“I think I have another idea. Do we still have that piece of paper with the Staff Sergeant’s signature? Well, how about we get the best handwriting imitator here to write a similar note. Write something like ‘These people are the children of soldiers in my camp, but are being sent to join a settlement near the coast. Due to the fact that all my troops are occupied with carrying the Great Leader’s will in the national park and crushing the rebels, we cannot escort them there ourselves, but they know the direction and have maps.’ And then copy the signature on there. It might fool a few people.” I suggested.
“Good idea.” Sophie said. “I can imitate handwriting. We’ll do that before we rest, but for now let’s keep going through the highway. We’ll find a place to rest before the sun comes up.”
“If we’re going to keep the illusion that we’re actually going to a coastal settlement, we have to travel by day.” said Anne.
“We could just claim that it’s hot to travel by day, so we chose to travel during the night. And anyway, our chances of being unseen are better during the night.” I said. Anne nodded and we started biking once again, with Isaac mumbling something about how changing from sleeping during the night to the day will have a variety of health effects.
At this point, I have to admit I didn’t really care about health effects. All I cared about was survival from the Great Leader.