At least our plan worked. The faked letter of permission was never needed. We were never seen. The highway was always mysteriously empty at night, and I didn’t care why. If we were always going to have it easy traveling at night, then that was good for us.
We were going at about 40 kilometers per day (or night), sometimes even more than that if we pushed ourselves to exhaustion. Anne estimated that it would take about a bit more than a month to cycle far enough to the coast, and that didn’t sound too bad. Food was the constant problem, however, but we’d found that farmlands in the country had been left untended by the soldiers and so there was plenty of food to be found. Biking all day did exhaust me at first, I admit. Although everyone was pretty fit from staying in the national park and going on Greyville missions, we never had to bike all day before, except for that time when we were biking to Greyville, but that had only been for a day or two considering how close Greyville was to the national park. The coast was not, and having to wake up day after day to cycle again and again was driving me to insanity. During the early days my body ached all day, but slowly it got better. I’d once read that your muscles compensate for your aches by making themselves stronger or something of that sort. Well, it was happening to me.
Another thing that drove me crazy was the fact that I had to sleep during the day. “I’m not a bat, for heaven’s sake”, I had once complained to Anne, but she had no sympathy. That doesn’t help. And boredom was not something that helped with the trip. We pretty much cycled silently. Very little talking was done, except for when we went to the sides of the road to forage for food.
Today was no exception. There was, once again, very little talking and we were as silent as ever.
At least we were silent until we came across cones that went across the street, blocking access. We all braked once we saw it. There had been no cones or anything until now. Why was one part of the highway suddenly blocked?
“Let’s just ignore them and go.” Toby said, his legs moving to bike again.
“Wait.” Anne said. “There has to be a reason why they’re blocking it. They won’t just put cones on for nothing.” I looked around. There was nothing I could see about why this area was being blocked. To one side was the green pasture of a farm while to the other was just an empty parking lot. Near it was a building that looked similar to a school.
“Maybe they’re repairing the road.” I suggested. “How about we just go through the grass off the road for a bit? It’s not gonna hurt.”
“Alright then. Hope for the best, that‘s what I always say.” Toby pedaled off again and we all followed him.
* * * * *
We soon saw why there were cones.
As we biked further and further, we saw just why the area might have been closed off. We soon came across a giant board in front of the building I’d thought of as a school (although as I came closer I found that it was much, much bigger than a normal school).
“Can you read what that board says?” I squinted my eyes. It was dark and my eyes were never known to be very good. Sophie’s eyes were the best, and so she squinted his eyes as best as she could, but only about three seconds later, she froze.
“What does it say?” asked Isaac.
Sophie got a hold of herself. “It says, ‘Headquarters of the Revolutionary Party’.”
“Headquarters. The Revolutionary Party’s headquarters. The Great Leader himself must be in there. We’re stuck right here in front of it.”
And it was indeed. Only the highway separated us from the Headquarters of the Revolutionary Party, home of the cursed Great Leader that was plaguing the country with his soldiers and stealing away everyone’s freedoms.
“You know, I have a grenade in my bag.” Toby mumbled quietly.
“Do not even think of it.” Isaac said quickly. “We can’t do anything that will draw attention to ourselves. If you want to bomb this place you’ll get all of us killed.”
“It could end it all…” Toby said, as if he was still in a dream.
“And end us all.” Isaac snapped.
“Quick, let’s get away.” I said. “We haven’t been seen yet. There must be some sort of sentry or guard system. We can’t afford to be sighted.” I started pedaling, but suddenly Toby laid down his bike, and got to a crawl. He quickly made his way and sprinted in a crawling position towards the gates of the headquarters.
“Toby! Are you retarded?” Isaac called us softly, not loud enough to be overheard by soldiers but also not loud enough to be heard by
Toby. Isaac cursed, and I thought about joining in. Has Toby gone crazy? Was he out of his mind?
“So what are we going to do?” Anne asked.
I grimaced. “We have no choice. Follow him in.”
* * * * *
Amazingly, there were no guards. Toby had waited for us at the gate, lying nearly flat on the floor, and when we reached him, Isaac immediately started swearing at him but Toby wouldn’t listen. I surveyed the surroundings and it was an empty courtyard that led to a glass door. There was certainly a reception lady sitting in front, I could see that much.
“So here you are, Toby.” I said bitterly. “Are you satisfied? Can we go back now?” Toby made no reply and instead started making his way across the courtyard towards the entrance. I was horrified. Toby was going to try to make his way into the headquarter of the government of the country. It was a terribly outrageous idea.
To my continued horror, Sophie followed. We can’t leave them, I thought to myself, and so I took a deep breath and started crawling too. Anne was close to follow and I knew then that I honestly didn’t care what Isaac did, but I heard his groan as he started moving. Soon enough we were at the door. The lady was busy typing something, and she didn’t notice us at all, but I waited for Toby to go in. Amazingly, Toby got to his feet and told us to be ready. He then dashed right into the room, closely followed by Sophie and the rest of us.
We followed his lead. In my chest, my heart was pounding. What the hell was I doing?
Immediately we heard the scream of the lady as we rushed into another room and then up the stairs. I heard an alarm being sounded all over the building. I gasped. What in the world was I doing? What in the world?
We ran up and up the stairs and finally after about four levels Toby ran off and then into the corridor. He then disappeared into one of the rooms and we quickly followed. Before going in I read in front of the room that it was named the ‘Supply Room’, and inside we found that it was filled with stationery.
“Look where your madness got us to.” Isaac shouted at Toby. “Look, just look! We were safe on the road until you got us in here.
You…you…” his voice trailed off. I guessed that he realized that shouting would simply reveal where we were.
“I’m sorry.” Toby said quietly. “I guess I was possessed. I was excited. I couldn’t control myself. I’d wanted to find the room the Great Leader was in and bomb it.”
“Well you can’t bomb anything now.” Isaac whispered as we heard the sound of running feet outside the door. “If you choose to bomb this room we’d all die. But if we got captured we’d die too, anyway.”
“Well, let’s get to hiding in a better position in this room, at least.” Anne muttered. I quickly got myself behind a shelf and the rest followed. It was crowded and it reminded me of when we had hid in a shop in town when soldiers were outside.
We waited for a few minutes, but all of it felt like it was an hour. Shouts could be heard from the outside. I groaned. Perhaps the end was near.
And finally the door swung open.
There stood a fat and short figure. But it was one whom I thought I’d seen before.
“Mr Ryan…” I said, breathless.
“You people…” he trailed off. “I think I know you guys. Wait.” He turned to the door and shouted, “They’re not in here. But I need to get some stationery.” He then turned back and locked the door. “Alright. If I remember correctly, I was a guide for you people on a field trip. Correct?”
“Y…yes.” Anne replied, her voice trembling.
Mr Ryan noticed how scared Anne was and smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to give you away, at least not until I’ve heard what you have to say. Tell me a brief story about what you’ve been doing since the trip.”
“Well, we came back to the camp. We lived around the national park for some time until we moved out of the cabin because they were searched through by the soldiers. We then went out to our own makeshift camp but it was raided by some sort of robber group. We fled to Greyville, but had to come out again when the city fell. We went back to the national park, but soldiers attacked our camp and although we managed to hold on the river we were using was poisoned and the soldiers were going to come and get us with fifty soldiers. That’s why we escaped to here.” Anne looked around, obviously trying to think of a lie. She couldn’t say that we wanted to bomb this place.
“We’d saw that this was the first place with electricity and lights, so we wanted to come and see what this place was. Obviously it isn’t a good idea, but we were…desperate for food and water.” I nodded. It was a well-constructed lie, and although I hated lying sometimes the situation was too desperate.
“Where were you heading for?” Mr Ryan asked. “Wait, I think I know that. You were heading for Estina, the free island.”
“Yes, we were.”
Mr Ryan said, “This is going to be hard helping you.”
I blinked in surprise, while Toby exclaimed, “What, you’re going to help us?”
Mr Ryan chuckled. “Why not? I have no faith in this revolution or the Great Leader. I’m only here to escape going to the settlement camps and for a good life. The settlements are horrible. I was lucky to have been in the military before this and so I was offered to be here.” He shook his head. “I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m already sucked in and I can’t get out. I can help you get to Estina, however. But so many people want to go to Estina it’s becoming hard.”
“How do you know?”
The man who was once our guide shrugged. “Well, I’ve had a dozen secret letters smuggled to me from friends who are in the settlements. They want to be taken to Estina. It’s currently run by the governor of Estina. That one is quite a bit of a general. Somehow the military garrison stationed at Estina managed to defeat the army sent to take it by the Great Leader and all the attempts by our side has failed. So basically Estina is the safest place right now. People are secretly trying to get there every day, but finding a boat and such is very difficult.”
“But can you help us?” I asked hopefully.
Mr Ryan nodded. “Yes, of course I can. The truth is that I don’t care at all about political ideologies or that rubbish communist stuff. My opinion is that the Great Leader is a retard, but if I don’t have a choice, really. Anyway, getting to the coast is very easy. You may have noticed that there aren’t any cars traveling at night on this highway. That’s because the Great Leader banned all night traveling on this highway, just for the security of this headquarters. We’re very down on manpower, as lots of people are being used to take our rebels. The Great Leader seems obsessed with them sometimes, the rebels.” Mr Ryan laughed. “We only have a few guards in this headquarters, and so it all depends on the electronic security system at the entrance, which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t. It didn’t for you people, because if it did I doubt you would have got in here at all.” I nodded. Mr Ryan continued speaking. “I can just give you a letter of permission and even if someone stops you there will be no questions asked. I’m not that senior but I was promoted recently so I’m senior enough to have the ‘no-questions-asked‘ sort of pass to give. I can also give you supplies like food and water. What I cannot say for sure is a boat to get to Estina. It is very difficult to get there, because officially all ties to Estina must be severed, including travel, although there are still a few illegal trips with escapees.”
“We’ll find a way to get there ourselves.” I said.
Mr Ryan looked doubtful. “Are you sure?”
“We’ve been through quite a few adventures ourselves.” said Toby. “We can get there.”
“Alright, if you say so. You will leave tomorrow morning. I will walk you out myself. You will hide in the farm here until the night and then travel to Estina. I’ll get you food and water quickly, but make sure you do not make a noise as you stay here.”
Before Mr Ryan left, he turned back again. He asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to go to a settlement? I can also find the settlement your families are in. Maybe that will be a better decision for you.” I glanced at Isaac and saw his eyes glisten, but Toby said “No, thank you” quickly enough. Mr Ryan shrugged and left.
We all breathed a big sigh of relief.
Surely our stakes for survival were higher now.