We both sat crouched, waiting. Listening for footsteps. I only heard my heart pounding in my chest. Micah talked like we had a chance of besting the remaining guards and Isoli. I knew he was being optimistic for me. I tried to do the same for him. Especially since deep down I figured this was it. Our last few minutes together.
Still no sounds from outside. I looked questioningly at Micah. What are they waiting for?Micah shrugged in response to my unasked question. Finally he raised a finger to his lips and crept toward the door. He ran his hands along the door, probably looking for a handle. I swallowed the urge to tell him there wasn’t one, to spare him the momentary embarrassment that his blindness might cause.
The click of the latch echoed in the back of the truck. We both froze, neither of us in the positions we planned. The door swung open. Light flooded the back of the truck. Even I wanted to throw my arm up to shield my eyes from the near blinding sunlight reflecting off the silver of the truck door. Micah dove out the door, tumbling out of my sight. I jumped up, watching the dust rise up around him and the struggling guard. Before I reached them, Micah ended up on top facing me. With a lopsided, apologetic smile he smashed the guard’s head down into a rock. I cringed and turned away, moving around the edge of the truck, trying to stay invisible to whoever waited at the helicopter. Olivia’s voice rang over the blades of the already running helicopter, calling for Micah.
I moved quickly along the side, looking into the cab of the truck. No Isoli. No Olivia. I sighed, biting back a tide of frustration. Would anything go right? Couldn’t just something go our way for once?Micah moved stealthily to my side.
“He took Olivia,” I whispered. I leaned forward, trying to get a better view. Isoli drug Olivia across the dirt, heading for the helicopter. “What’re we going to do?”
Micah gritted his teeth. “I’m going after Olivia, obviously.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. Micah shouldn’t have to risk his life for her again. It was my fault Isoli had Olivia in a death grip. “Let me help.”
Micah turned back to me. “You don’t have to save her to prove to me you’re sorry for what happened.”
I sighed. “Yes, I do. Let me help. You can’t get to Olivia without taking out Isoli and the guards first. You take care of them; I’ll get to Olivia.”
He bit his lip. He probably didn’t want to trust Olivia’s life to me. I didn’t blame him. “Stay out of sight. As soon as I have the others down, I’ll be right behind you. Don’t do anything stupid, Eve.”
“Like shoot your girlfriend with a paralyzer?” I asked sarcastically.
Micah snorted with laughter, which eased the tension in my chest. If he could laugh, he didn’t hold it against me. “Yeah. Try not to do that again. Oh, and Eve … don’t get yourself killed either. I’m looking forward to a big stack of pancakes when we get back to the base.”
I grinned. “Roger that, Robin Hood.” I waited for him to roll his eyes at me before I spun around and darted around the edge of the truck.
A crack split the air. I looked over the hood of the truck. One guard lay motionless in the dirt beside the helicopter. The other swung his gun frantically, peppering the ground around the truck. I dove behind the wheel.
“MICAH?” I shouted.
“I’m good,” he called calmly back.
I inched forward, peering around the truck. Isoli half-drug Olivia toward the helicopter, looking back over his shoulder. Panic lined every inch of his face. I resisted the urge to laugh at him. We weren’t out of the woods yet. I crouched next to the hood. How would I get to Isoli? Only open space stood between us and Isoli’s goal, the helicopter.
Crack! The second guard dropped. Isoli swung around. He pressed a knife to Olivia’s neck. I gasped.
“Stop shooting!” Hysteria riddled Isoli’s voice. “I’ll kill her.”
I scrambled back to the back of the truck. “What should we do? Can’t you shoot him?”
Micah looked around the edge of the truck again and shook his head. “He’s in full panic mode. I can’t predict how he’s going to move or act.” He rubbed his forehead and wiped perspiration on his pants. “I’ll distract him. Move around behind him and wait for my signal to attack. Cut down on his arms; try to strip the knife out of his hands without cutting Olivia … or yourself.” He brought his hand down in a chopping motion, illustrating what he wanted me to do. “Once the knife is down, get out of the way. I’ll shoot him then.”
I tried not to let all the things that could go wrong crowd my brain. “Got it.” I nodded once and moved back toward the front of the truck. Once I got to the front bumper, I saw Micah approaching Isoli, gun up in the air, hands held in surrender.
A relieved smile spread across Isoli’s face. “Drop the gun or I’ll gut her like a fish.” Calmness seemed to seep back into his voice. At least now he wouldn’t accidentally slice Olivia’s throat open. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Micah slowly lower the gun to the dusty, desert ground.
“Let her go Isoli. I’ll come in without a fight, just don’t do anything stupid. You’ll get what you want.”
I tried to let Micah’s soothing tones wrap around me. Tentatively I stepped out into the open, watching Isoli. He never looked my way. He fixed his full attention on Micah.
“Sorry, Micah, I can’t do that. I may still need her in case you don’t cooperate once we get to the lab.” Isoli grinned. His callousness twisted my stomach.
“At least put the knife away,” Micah begged.
I crept closer. So close.
“Not until my colleague gets here, and you’re safe in the helicopter.” Isoli glanced nervously down the road.
I raised my hand, testing how close I was. A few more quiet steps. Isoli hadn’t noticed me. The soft sand beneath my feet masked my trembling footsteps. Micah deserves to have Olivia. Just let me get to her. Let me save her.
“Just shoot him, Micah!” Olivia’s voice sounded hoarse, filled with emotion.
I crouched behind Isoli, close enough to snap down on his arm like Micah wanted.
“Not yet, Olivia,” Micah yelled, still sounding calm. I recognized the message for me. I froze, waiting for his signal. Even from behind I saw Isoli’s arm shaking. I imagined the knife too close to her neck, pressing against her jugular.
“Don’t do it, Micah! She means nothing to me! I’ll slit her in a second if you even reach for that gun.”
I gazed around Isoli. Micah swept his hands back up into the air, trying to keep Isoli calm. Micah stared at Olivia. A moment later I caught a slight reaction; the smallest widening of his eyes. I looked at what little of Olivia’s figure I could see between Isoli’s legs. She shifted her weight back and forth, from her right leg to her left and back again. She could move. She could MOVE!
Micah dove for the gun. I jumped, pouncing on Isoli just as Olivia slammed her head back into Isoli’s nose. I yanked at his hair, pulling his head backwards. He screeched in pain as Olivia stomped on his foot. She rolled away, breathing heavily. I wrapped my arms around Isoli’s neck, doing anything to keep him from getting to her. Dust engulfed the air around us. Isoli dug his fingers into my arms, ripping them away. I lowered my shoulder, charging toward him. He spun around. I wrapped my hands around his waist. His bulk wouldn’t budge. A hand came down on my back, forcing me to the ground with a grunt of pain. I rolled as Isoli swung his arm down, the tip of the knife catching my arm. Pulling my knees back toward me, I bucked my legs toward Isoli, catching his knees. He toppled over onto me. The knife sliced into my shoulder.
I screamed. Still, something pulsed through me. I shoved with all my strength, rolling Isoli onto the ground. I dove for Isoli’s knife hand, trying to pin the weapon down in the sand. He yanked his arm easily from my injured grasp. The knife swung across my abdomen, cutting such a clean line I almost didn’t feel it. I fell backward. Dust rose and settled over me. Numbness seeped over my arm, my chest, racing to meet the stinging pain in my mid-section. The dim figure beside me stood. The blood on his knife--mine, I realized with a jolt of fear--dripped into a pool beside me. The man stepped back. His voice seemed muted. I couldn’t understand the jubilant sounding tones.
I was dying. I knew it. Olivia’s face swam in front of me. She pulled off her shirt. Pressed it against my stomach. Blood splattered over the white tank top she wore.
Was I afraid to die? I didn’t know. Would I see my mother? But seeing my parents meant leaving Micah. He’d survive without me, but I wanted to see him grow into manhood. Even now I pictured it, looming above me, just out of reach. So much like Dad. Or was I seeing Dad now and not what I thought Micah would become? I reached, wanting to go to my father. Where was Mom? Had they come to take me?
“Take me home, Dad,” I whispered.
The world around me darkened. I succumbed, closing my eyes. My last breath swept through my chest, leaving me still.
And finally free.