It would take a full day’s journey for Leviathan to safely reach the mines. The massive ship's route had to avoid areas that were likely to be patrolled by Peacekeepers. Not an easy feat for a vessel so large. She had survived for a long time. But that was only because Conrad piloted her with the greatest of care.
Jason was exhausted. With nothing better to do with his time he'd retreated to his cabin to try and snatch an ounce of sleep. Not that he expected to get any. His heart was pounding. He was so close now.
Maybe he should have told Rebecca the truth. He'd wanted to. Almost as much as he had wanted to hold the secret close. But then he'd remembered her reaction to mention of a mother. The young woman held no love for her.
So what if he told her and she refused to help?
Jason couldn't bear to think what he would do then. So he had lied. After all, all he had to do was get Rebecca to come with him. He could ask for forgiveness once Sam was free. Then Rebecca would see her mother had never really abandoned her. That the circumstances causing her to leave had been beyond her control.
"What are you so afraid of, sweetheart?" The voice came to him as if through a fog. "I'm still here. I’m waiting for you to come get me.“
Jason sat up with a start. He'd actually fallen asleep. He let out a sigh and sunk back against his pillow. "I'm coming for you, Sam," he whispered to the empty room.
The Leviathan arrived at their destination under the cover of darkness. Rebecca could see next to nothing as she stood on deck with Bruce and Jason. All the Leviathan's running lights had been extinguished, but Conrad seemed to know exactly where he was going.
He’d caught her by the arm as they'd moved from the bridge to make their way to the deck. "Hey, watch yourself out there. I know we haven't known each for very long... but I’ll be kinda upset if anything were to happen to you."
Now he brought the Leviathan to a shuddering halt against the edge of a sheer cliff face. Much of below Rebecca had seen so far had been ocean broken by spires of rock and small islands. As they approached the rock walls and slipped up so that they could just see over its top, this piece of land extended as far as the eye could see. It was difficult to see in the darkness but floodlights illuminated heavy machinery and equipment in the distance. They were at the edge of a plateau and this was where the mine was.
"We'll continue on foot," said Jason. "Following the cliff edge. It'll be difficult for any patrolling Peacekeepers to spot us."
Rebecca hoped he was right. They were leaving the Leviathan. There was just the three of them. They each had a pack of supplies, though hers was likely lighter than the one Jason carried and most definitely lighter than Bruce’s. Bruce and Jason had handguns. She and Jason the two Controls. She suspected Jason also had his knife, concealed somewhere, and who knew what else.
They disembarked from the Leviathan. The huge ship sunk from the cliff edge, near silent save for the deep thrum of its engines. This too faded and disappeared and it was like the ship had never been there.
“I hope you like long walks,” Jason said over his shoulder.
Rebecca drew in a breath, shouldered her pack of supplies and trudged after the two men.
The last leg of the journey was the most dangerous. Approaching Galilee on foot, they had no defence should a Peacekeeper or other monitoring equipment spot them. Jason was counting on remaining invisible. That had always served him well in the past.
It was in the early hours of the morning that they finally came upon the small, dilapidated town that housed the mining workers. It was unlikely Peacekeepers would be patrolling for anyone leaving the town. Out in the wastelands surrounding the mines there was very little chance of survival. If anyone did try to leave, and didn't appear for a shift, that was when they would be searched for.
With any luck, tonight there were no deserters. Having come this far, Jason was more than happy take that chance. This had taken long enough.
He paused on the final rise approaching the town and paused, adjusting his coat against the biting wind. He felt a twinge down in his gut. Once they entered the town the danger would not be from being spotted by Peacekeepers. Though the inhabitants here were well aware of their situation in the grand scheme of things some were more than happy with how they lived and would not want to stir up trouble for themselves. Or rather, they were comfortable that maintaining the status quo was what kept them alive and fed. If anyone found out they were rebels they risked being turned in. But Jason knew a few people he could trust.
"Come on, we're nearly there," Bruce's voice came from behind him.
Jason turned around to see Bruce and then Rebecca further down the slope, struggling a little as she made her way up. This was one thing he hadn't fully thought through. Rebecca was probably used to driving everywhere.
"Are you coming or not?" he called down.
"You didn't say we had a walk a dozen kilometres…" Rebecca panted as she reached the top of the rise.
"Relax, it's only that far.” Jason pointed to the lights.
Rebecca looked where he indicated and groaned.
"Stop whining." Jason stomped off down the other side of the slope. Why couldn’t Sam’s daughter have been fit? And not think she knew everything?
"Hey, you're the one who brought me down here. Just remember that."
The sky had taken on a pink hue when they finally made it to the edge of town. Jason had felt the presence of one or two Peacekeepers, but they were deep inside the town, the outskirts were unguarded.
Luckily, Jason’s intended destination was not that deep within the village. The red desert gave way to red dirt tracks, then small mud brick buildings. These were spread out on the outskirts and then quickly became closer together. As they began to move into the more densely packed areas Jason grabbed Rebecca by the sleeve. "Follow Bruce and me. Try not to make any unnecessary noise," he whispered.
Rebecca nodded mutely. She wasn't making any noise, or asking any questions. At least she was trying to follow instructions. She also appeared nervous, glancing about at the nearby buildings as if they may contain a threat. That was probably a good thing.
They made it to the mud house that was Jason’s target without seeing anyone. It was still too early. It was between shifts; Jason had counted on the changeover being as it was when he'd last been here. "Bruce, watch her." As quietly as he could, Jason fiddled open one of the windows on the hut he'd chosen. It was easy, due to its poor construction. He slipped in silently through the window.
Jason paused as he let his eyes adjust to the dark interior, and listened. Nothing. He drew his gun. People died in the mines. Who he was looking for might not still live here.
Jason crept through the darkened hut and found the small bed in the corner. It looked recently slept in, the covers a tangled mess. Perhaps she was on night shift.
Or… Jason pushed a hand into the tattered sheets. Warm.
He spun around and came face to face with a pistol. He froze, his own gun pointed in the face of his attacker. He shifted his focus from the gun to the face behind it.
"Jason…" The woman was dark skinned, her hair pulled back tightly from her face. Her piercing eyes met with his for a brief moment.
Jason lowered his gun. Tracey didn't. "So you're going to shoot me?"
Tracey looked at him for a moment more, then lowered her weapon. "A part of me wants to…" She let out a pent up breath. "Damn it, Jason. The big cats have been crowing all about how they've wiped out the resistance! I thought you were dead!"
"Some of us are."
"Is this still a safe place?"
Tracey raised an eyebrow. "As safe as you're going to get, Jason Gray. Provided you tell me what you're doing here."
"I will I promise. I've brought some friends; can we bring them inside before someone finds them?"
Tracey shrugged. "Sure, make yourselves at home."
At least Steph's place in the underCity had only been small. The mud hut was dusty, as if the red desert dirt and managed to find its way right through every crack and crevice in the walls. There was a small table and rough wooden stools in the corner of the main room where Jason's contact introduced herself. Rebecca pulled up one of those stools as Jason quickly explained to Tracey what they were planning.
"You're going to attack the mine, with her?" said Tracey when Jason finished.
"She's a Controller…"
"I guessed. But still… no offence," she added, sparing Rebecca a quick glance. "I'm sure you're good at Controlling machines. But the mining equipment? They're massive, and protected. You'll never be able to hack one and even if you do… well, you've still got to get out of the mines…"
"That's what we need your help for," said Jason. "We need you to sneak us in on one of your shifts, and back out again."
"And the protection?" Tracey pressed.
"She can get through the protection. She's good."
Tracey folded her arms. “No one can get through protection and I don't think you should try."
"I got through protection once,” Jason retorted.
"Yeah, I know. It nearly killed you."
Rebecca felt her breath catch in her throat. "Hey, wait a minute…"
"This is different; she'll get through."
"I'm not comfortable about this, Jason," Tracey continued. "I'm not going to help if it'll get me in trouble."
"You owe me!" Jason growled, smacking a hand on the table top.
"Not my job! Not my life! You may be able to sneak around causing trouble, but some of us have to worry about consequences to our actions…"
"So come live with us.“
"I can't live with you if you're dead. Besides, I like it here."
“Please tell me that was sarcasm,” Jason growled. He huffed and began to pace the small room. "You're all the same; you're not willing to commit…"
"Don't forget we're right under the microscope here in Galilee," Tracey said coldly. "Some of us still have something to lose, Jason."
"Hey!" Rebecca finally shouted. “You didn't tell me trying to control something through protection could kill me!“
Jason finally turned to look at her. “It didn't kill me, the idiot that can't even control a bus!" he snapped. "You'll be fine."
"Maybe I should do a test run on a protection bracelet or something first. It wouldn’t take long and I’d be happier if…“
"No one's going to let you fiddle with their nanites. And I told you it doesn't work the same on those... will you just trust me? You'll do fine!" Jason was as tense as Rebecca had ever seen him. His hands were balled up into fists, and he was sweating.
"Okay, you want a test run? I'll make you a deal," said Tracey. "Rebecca can show me what she can do. And if there's a chance she can actually do this, I'll help you out. But I am not putting my life on the line for some fool’s mission.”
Jason let his hands relax. “What did you have in mind?”
“Julien, the guy in charge of things around here, announced how they've taken out your base. Been showing off his new toys and acting like a real jerk. They're making another announcement later this morning. There'll be a Peacekeeper there, one of their newer models. If Rebecca can take it down, make it look like a malfunction mind you, then I'll help you get into the mines.”
Rebecca swallowed hard. Taking down a Peacekeeper was entirely different to testing out her skills on a protection bracelet, or something else harmless. But she’d done it before. “It won’t prove I can get through protection though. But if I take down this Peacekeeper, that’ll really help you out?”
"Yes," Tracey nodded. “That’s all I want to see. The way they've been showing off their new toys it'd be good to show there's a few chinks in their armour.”
Her heart had started pounding in her chest. She’d done this before. But not in enemy territory. “Okay. I’ll show you I can take down a Peacekeeper…"
"I don't think we can waste the time," Jason said. "But if it’s the only way to get Tracey's help…”
"It's still making me uncomfortable," Rebecca admitted.
"You agreed to come out here.”
"That was before someone told me hacking through protection might kill me!" Rebecca snapped at him. "You can't just lie to me and expect me to keep going along happily with everything!"
Jason huffed and paced across the room, turning his back on her. He ran a hand through his hair and then turned back around. "I didn't tell you because I know you can do it and I know you'll be fine. So you’re not going to get killed. But I never said sneaking in here wasn't going to be dangerous. That's what you have to worry about. Not the protection. And Tracey is the only hope we have of getting in and out safely."
Rebecca drew in a breath. Jason was right. She was already here. There was no point backing out now. “Okay, I'll show you what I can do, Tracey. Show me this toy you want me to take down."