Hunter was sitting on the floor when I woke up. The wheels of our plane touched down as I crouched at his side. He shivered. His face was deathly white as he turned to stare at me, pupils dilated.
“What’s wrong?” Gingerly, I touched his cheek. He was cold under my fingertips. “Hunter, what happened?”
“He was here, only for a bit but he was here. He told me...” He trailed off, closing his eyes and leaning his cheek into my palm. Studying his face, the dark circles under his eyes had become darker than the night before.
“What did he tell you?” There was a rustling behind me, grumbled chatter as everyone else began to wake up. Hunter stayed quiet even as the ramp of the cargo plane lowered, allowing morning sunlight to pour in.
“I...can’t remember.” His eyes slowly opened, the pupils back to their normal size as the facade of calm broke. “I can’t remember.”
“Lovebirds, come grab your stuff, we have things to do,” Came Tango’s voice as a door shut and boots thudded against the metal floor. Before we did get up, shouting came from the opening as men rushed to stand at the bottom of the ramp, rifles pointed up at us.
“You are on private land, state your business!” The centreman shouted, the men on his sides scowling. Hunter was frozen next to me, his face in their direction.
“Watch your tone, you’re talking to a commanding officer,” Tango shouted back. The middle man stiffened before nodding to his men who lowered their guns. “Our base was compromised, we seek shelter.”
“Why do you have kids with you, who are they?” The man asked, eyes glaring daggers at us.
“Gifted soldiers,” Tango answered, standing behind us as Victor, Fox, Rooi and Cat came to make themselves known as well. The men automatically lifted their weapons again, tension clear in their shoulders.
“We cannot allow them in. The work done here is too valuable for one of their outbursts to destroy. You and your men can come but the freaks must stay in the far cabin.”
“So be it,” Victor said, a confident smirk on his lips. “As long as we get our share of food and water, we will be fine.”
The man set his jaw at Victor’s indifference, nodding his head once again. His men hesitantly lowered their guns. Tango prodded my lower back, signalling that we get up. I did so, helping Hunter to his feet as he stumbled forward.
“Get your bags quickly,” Tango muttered, touching Rooi’s shoulder as worry flitted across her face. “I will make sure you are looked after.”
We did as told, grabbing our bags and momentarily remembering that we were still in our sleepwear while everyone else was in uniform. As I debated what to do, Victor strolled passed me, barefoot and confident in his appearance. Following his lead, I made sure Hunter was okay before gazing over to Fox and Rooi. Their faces were hard, determination clear in their eyes as they shared a look. Cat nervously glanced around before looking down at herself and nodding to her clothing with confidence. Ready to go, we followed Alpha team down the ramp, a salty breeze hitting our faces and sand hugging our feet.
Gazing forward, I watched as waves crashed onto the beach, small crabs running across the wet sand. Everest base was not the mountain its name suggested but an island.
“Wow,” Rooi exclaimed, a smile breaking her mask as she breathed in the air. The man behind her seemed to be taken aback by her childish wonder before the protective scowl came back and he pushed her to get her going again, earning a glare from Fox.
“Flynn, Krews, take the kids to the cabin, we will come soon,” The leader of this group said, taking the others with him as two men herded us in the opposite direction. The sand began to give way to soft soil and grass as palm trees and thick vines welcomed us into the small forest. The path we walked on was well used by the time we were fully engulfed by nature.
“Fox, you must be having a hard time controlling yourself since you have never tasted these winds,” Victor joked, gaining the attention of the men as Fox chuckled.
“I’m waiting for some food before trying to catch a current. Its wonderful how it feels against my skin, making me tingle and all. I bet you’re having a hard time too, trying your best to keep away from the water,” Fox answered, making Victor chuckle as well.
“Alpha, you feeling any different too?” Cat asked, ducking under a rebellious palm frown sticking into our path.
“No, but what I sense below is interesting. There is more happening under our fee than on top, meaning I think I know where the famous Everest base is hiding.” Hunter’s words made both men tense up, sharing a look of distress at their base being exposed. “I’m sorry, did I stress you out a bit? I can tell you more than what’s below the ground, like how both of you are wearing rings around your necks with your dog tags, one of you is four bullets short of a full clip and the other is carrying two knives on his right thigh.”
“H-how the-” The sandy-blonde haired one caught himself.
“The cabin is around the corner. We will stay here and bring your share of food,” The black-haired man said, stopping in his tracks, his friend following suit. We continued, rounding the bend in the path, bursting out in laughter at how Hunter had made them feel exposed.
When I focused on the scene in front of us, I saw the cabin the men had spoken about but it was nothing to what my mind had conjured up.
It was small but with a modern twist to its exterior such as the seashell-white walls and floor-to-ceiling windows with curtains pulled closed. The door was large and made of birch wood, giving away the years it faced by the stains and scratches in its polish. Inside the designer had gone for a minimalistic view with decorations made of seashells, vases with bright flowers and futon couches sitting in front of a large flat-screen TV. The open-plan kitchen allowed for an island counter to be used as a dining table, its counters and cupboards made out of polished driftwood and fully decked out with the needed appliances. The tiles were a faux rock made to look speckled like natural rock going through erosion, this went through the entire house but not the rooms. There were six rooms, three with two single beds and three with queen sized beds. Two bathrooms sported the same tiles but had dark tiling up its walls.
We knew which rooms we all would go to so no time was wasted for Hunter and me to find ours and slip out of our sweaty sleepwear, into shorts and vests. Choosing to stay barefoot, we carried the CDs and books we were able to haul with us to the main room, opening the curtains and pushing the windows open to let the breeze in. We then made ourselves comfortable on the floor, sorting out bands and authors. The others came soon after with their share of smuggled CDs and books. An unspoken thought on all of our heads, do not speak of the base we had run from.