The room was cold. Paul could see his breath billow out in the air and fade away. He hadn’t been so close to the surface since the evacuation. With the sun dimming the surface was a cold inhospitable expanse. He couldn’t tell how close to the surface he actually was but the chill in the air along with the level of security in the halls told him he was closer than he would have liked.
He was in a sparse room. The walls were bare and Paul sat at one of the two simple metal chairs that were on either side of a metal table. There was nothing else in the room but the intermittent cloud of Paul’s breath. He sat quietly and wondered why he had been sent for. It had been nearly an hour, in Paul’s best guess, since he had been at his post in the filtration plant. He felt his bracelet buzz and went to the guard station. They directed him to the elevator and he was ushered into the room. Paul hoped his time was being counted but doubted it. Everyone had to take a rotating shift at the plants that provided the refugees with water, food, and air. Paul was debating asking someone if this counted towards his time when the door opened to a man dressed in a military uniform.
The man was looking at a file. He sat down and continued to read ignoring Paul sitting on the other side of the table. Paul was stunned by the man. He looked well fed and very healthy, which was an odd enough sight, but what shocked Paul the most was the uniform. Paul hadn’t seen anyone wearing anything other than the standard coveralls they were all given when they descended. Even the guards wore them.
“Mr. Shaw,” the man said still looking at the file.
“Yes,” Paul said.
The man looked up. “You are probably wondering why you’ve been asked here.”
“Yes,” Paul said. He looked down at the table when he answered.
“You were a bus driver?” The man half asked.
“For the prison,” Paul said.
“Yes. You have fire arm training, correct?”
“Yeah, never shot anything though.”
“That’s good,” then man said. A smile formed on his face then vanished. “We have a job for you to do.”
“Yes. Our resources are limited and are currently tied up with another matter I’m afraid.” Amiability oozed from the words but Paul felt the man was as cold as the room. “We need you to deliver something for us; something of great importance. It just so happens that the location for the delivery is on your old bus route. You need to be there within forty-eight hours so no stopping to reminisce Mr. Shaw.”
Paul was silent. He didn’t want to go outside or deliver anything, but he didn’t think he could say no.
“You will of course be given the supplies you need as well as a fire arm. There should be no problem making your deadline,” the man continued to reference the file he held as he spoke. “I must make it clear that under no circumstances are you to miss your deadline Mr. Shaw.” The cold demeanour the man showed was clear in his words. Paul understood that he couldn’t fail and that terrible things would happen if he did.
“What am I delivering?” Paul said doing his best to accept the situation.
“You’ll be briefed on the way,” the man said. He closed the file and turned to leave.
“On my way where?”
“Up, Mr. Shaw.”
The next few minutes were filled with frantic activity. Another man in a similar suit led Paul to a room with a small window over a counter. Paul could see shelves stuffed full of various equipment stacked behind the window and a door leading to another room. A man shuffled through the door and looked completely uninterested in Paul or his escort. He wore a wrinkled short sleeved shirt the same colour as the other men Paul met, except for a large stain over the man’s ample stomach. He took the file from Paul’s escort and half-heartedly collected items from the shelves. He issued Paul a pistol with one magazine, food rations for two days and what looked like well worn cold weather gear.
The coat was faded with thick stitching in odd places which showed how many times it had been repaired. The matching pants were equally as patched and the heavy boots were comfortably broken in, but didn’t fit well. The toque, gloves, and scarf that accompanied the clothing looked warm, but were faded and carried the smell of the last person who wore them. The gun fit in a holster at Paul’s waist and the rations, along with basic survival gear, fit in a backpack.
Paul dressed and handed his coveralls to the sullen man behind the window. His escort took him to another small room with a door on the far wall then left him to wait. Paul used the time to check his cold weather clothing and to look through the meagre equipment he had been issued. The coat and pants had a quality that Paul thought of as often appreciated. They were clearly heavily used, but someone was likely thankful to have them at one time. He hoped that they would stand up to the kind of cold that gave people in the shelter nightmares – Paul included. In the backpack he had a knife, a flint and tinder, and a compass. Paul didn’t consider himself and outdoorsman but he felt he could manage the tools for the short trip.
Next Paul took out the gun and inspected it. He was thankful that it was similar to the one he used as a prison bus driver. He had never been a good shot and didn’t think he could manage to shoot at all while wearing the thick gloves. There were stories that spread through the refuge of dangerous wanders who roamed the dead surface. They were either said to be those who refused to move beneath the surface when the Sun began to wan or criminals who were cast out from the shelters for the horrible things they did. Paul knew they were just stories made up by scared and bored survivors. No one could survive on the surface for long. He believed the gun was likely to stay in its holster, and he was fine with that.
As he holstered the weapon the far door opened. A man walked in and Paul wasn’t sure if it was one of the men he had met earlier or not. He was ushering in a short white puff ball with stubby arms and legs that turned out to be a bundled up little girl. Her outer wear was extensive and looked brand new. It was hard to tell under the clothing but Paul thought she couldn’t be older than five or six. Even in the expansive coat she looked well fed and healthy. Strapped to the back of the coat was a small white bag like the one Paul was given. He figured she had been given her own supplies which would thankfully take the burden off of his own.
“This girl is very important Mr. Shaw. You must do whatever it takes to get her to her destination on time.” The man handed Paul a field map folded up in a plastic sleeve. It showed the route leading away from the shelter. “There is an airfield on the way to the prison,” the man said pointing to the spot marked on the map. “You should know the way but make sure to use the compass. You have forty-eight hours starting now.” The man nudged the girl towards Paul and walked back though the door.
Guards lead Paul and the girl through more corridors. Paul kept next to the girl and tried to figure out how he would keep her safe for two days of walking on the surface. He thought she looked scared, not that he would blame her knowing where they were headed, but he considered that he may be projecting his own feelings onto the stolid girl. They eventually came to another man in a uniform who stood by a set of solid looking doors. The guards handed the man a file and he punched in a code on a wall mounted keypad. The doors slid open revealing a short hallway and an elevator. Beyond the doorway was a wall of freezing air. Paul shivered thinking about how much worse it as going to get.
They approached the elevator and the doors slid closed behind them. The girl hesitated at the open elevator. Paul forced himself forward and she reluctantly went in after him. He closed a stiff gate and pressed the button that indicated that they were secure. A buzz grew into a hum and then a loud bellow. The elevator car rocked slightly then shot upward. Paul braced himself and reached out to steady the girl.
The temperature dropped steadily as they climbed. Several times Paul thought it couldn’t get any colder, but it continued to plummet. He kept himself and the girl moving to keep warm and let the elevator take them to its destination.
They stopped as suddenly as they started. Again Paul had to prevent himself and the girl from ending up on the floor. The gate opened and doors that mirrored the ones they exited down at the shelter separated them from the open surface. As they approached the doors whirred to life and struggled to open. With a loud crack the doors split and revealed a pile of ice and snow built up on the other side. They fought against the mound but froze where they were. Wind howled its way through the opening as Paul pulled at the door trying to force them apart. He only managed to move them an inch or so but it was enough for him to get at the debris. After a few minutes of pushing at the stuff, prying at the doors and eventually kicking at the pile, Paul had made a gap wide enough to lift the girl over the built up ice and crawl out himself.
Somehow it was colder out in the open. The sky gave the impression of a dull dusk and the open space felt like the arctic but Paul knew it was midmorning. He remembered the balmy breezes he used to enjoy only a few years earlier. He looked down at the girl and saw that she was shivering. He crouched down and made sure she was bundled up tightly.
“If we get moving we’ll warm up a bit, okay?” he said straightening up. The girl looked up at him but he couldn’t make out any expression through the scarf and hood. He started to move and she stayed with him. He knew that she couldn’t walk very quickly and he was in a hurry but he wanted to save carrying her for when he needed to so he could conserve his energy and make the deadline.
Paul tried to not think much of the girl. He wanted to keep her safe, but he didn’t want to get attacked. Most of all he didn’t want to think of where he was bringing her. He easily convinced himself that it was likely a better place than where they came from.
There was a little snow blowing around, but mostly things were covered in thick blankets of ice and frost. The world didn’t look dead; it looked like life had just decided to move on. The cold and ice had caused a lot of damage and with no one to fix anything it compounded. Things weren’t in ruins, the cold held things together, but the damage was visible. Paul imagined that it wasn’t unlike what an alien planet might look like after all its inhabitants had moved to a more hospitable place. For a second Paul thought he saw something move just outside his view. He spun around but just saw wind and snow.
They spent the day walking, with Paul carrying the girl when she got tired. She didn’t talk and he didn’t mind. He was busy trying to remember his route without recognizing any more than he had to. It was a dismal sight and he wanted to pretend it wasn’t the remnants of the place he used to live. He wondered if the girl recognized anything, or if she was even from the same town he was. The thoughts started to bother him so he focused on checking the map instead.
They had done alright for the first day, but he was worried it wouldn’t be enough. He knew that tomorrow would be even more difficult after having already spent a day fighting the cold and the wind. It was starting to get darker and colder and Paul thought he should start looking for a place to rest for the night. They would need to build a fire and block the wind. The days were shorter than he remembered before going down into the bunkers – even after the event.
There were a few houses spread far apart along the side of the road with fields stretching out behind them. Paul considered trying one of the houses, but when he took a closer look he decided against it. He thought starting a fire any of the houses nearby would bring it down on top of them. He looked behind the houses to find a shelter when he saw another flash of movement in the distance. He was sure he saw it this time but had no idea what it could be. He hoped a fire would keep it away, but he knew he would at least be better able to protect the girl with a shelter. He picked the girl up and headed for a small barn at the edge of the barren field. It was a little large to be called a shed, and it would be more than enough for Paul and the girl.
The barn was in poor shape, some boards were missing and the roof had a large hole near the back but it would work for what Paul needed it for. He gathered the loose wood and brush he was able to find and pulled a few boards off the fallen door. The fire burned low and smouldered, but it was enough to bring some light and warmth to the little barn. Paul lead the girl to the spot he thought was getting the most warmth and sat where he could see the entrance. He took off his pack, dug out a protein bar and a thick meal replacement and forced himself to eat slowly. He wanted the food to last him as long as possible. He swallowed a bite and spoke to the girl.
“Did they give you some food?” he asked. “You should really have something to eat,” he continued when she didn’t respond.
She stared at him with no expression he could make out under her scarf and goggles. He moved next to the girl. “My name is Paul,” he said trying to think of a way to make the girl feel comfortable. “What’s your name?”
The girl sat silently.
“I’m going to look in your bag to see if you have any food. If not you can have some of mine. Is that ok?” Paul asked. The girl continued to sit in silence. Paul started to think of her like a small scared animal. He dug into her pack and found food of her own along with and envelope filled with papers and a small locked box. Paul took out a protein bar and a drink similar to the ones he had eaten, but slightly higher grade, and avoided the rest. He opened the packages and handed the food to the girl. She hesitated but with a little prodding she took them and ate.
Paul continued to eat himself and examined the map. “We are about as close to half way as I can figure,” he said between bites. The girl still didn’t respond but he continued. “We’ll try to get some sleep here and set off in the morning. I don’t know who’s waiting for you but I’ll get you there, ok?” He finished eating while he chose the route for the next day. When he was done he put the map back in its sleeve and watched the girl. She had eaten half her protein bar and finished her drink. He asked her if she wanted anything else while he put the half eaten bar back in her pack.
She didn’t say anything.
“You should get some sleep,” he said still sitting next to her. “I’ll stay up a bit and make sure the fire will keep burning and then I’ll go to sleep too. We’ll be safe here.” As he finished his sentence a figure appeared in the doorway.
Paul was as still as the girl. He couldn’t seem to think fast enough. He considered going for the gun at his belt but knew he couldn’t get his gloves off and grab it fast enough to stop the figure from doing whatever it intended to do. He had decided to go for the gun with his gloves on hoping to scare the person off when she stepped into the light and introduced herself.
“Hi, I’m Kate,” she said assuredly. “Mind if I share your fire?”
She only came up to Paul’s chest, but she seemed to tower over him. She wore clothing similar to his, but if possible, even more worn. Instead of a pistol at her waist a large rifle was strapped to her back along with a bag that looked like Paul’s too.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“I told you sweetie, I’m Kate – and I’d really like to get in on that fire.” She moved in and sat across from Paul without waiting for him to offer. “Don’t worry hun, I can share too. What’s your name?” she asked flashing a smile at least as warm as the fire.
“What do you want?” Paul asked still following his own line of questions. He was determined to not let her push her way in.
“I already told you hun. It gets pretty cold at night and I like your fire.”
“What are you doing here?” Paul asked undeterred.
“Aren’t you listening,” she started.
“Outside,” Paul clarified. “What are you doing outside?”
“I’m on a job, same as you I expect.” She paused to let him catch up. “I’m looking for something.”
“I can’t say. Sorry sweetie, you know the rules. I promise it’s not you or your little friend there.”
Paul looked over at the girl. She had been watching them talk back and forth but still showed no expression.
“So, are you going to tell me your name?” Kate asked.
Paul looked the woman over and tried to figure her out. He didn’t think he could trust her, but he thought she could definitely help him keep the girl alive – as long as it was in her interest.
“I’m Paul,” he finally said trying to sound confident in the fact.
“Hi Paul,” Kate said with another disarming smile. “And who’s this tough customer,” she said looking at the girl.
“I don’t know her name. She hasn’t said anything to me.”
“Don’t want to give anything away, do ya? I get it. Well you don’t have to worry now,” she said addressing them both, “Kate’s here and she’s got a surprise for you.”
Kate took of her bag and reached into it. Pal tensed and moved to keep himself in front of the girl.
“Got it,” Kate exclaimed making Paul jump. “Someone’s excited,” she said, “Can’t blame you.” She held out a foil covered bar to both Paul and the girl. “Go ahead,” she said smiling wide.
Paul took the bar and examined it. It was about four inches long and two wide and light. He smelled it and pulled away a corner of the foil. His jaw dropped. “No,” was all he could say to the woman.
“Enjoy it sweetie. There isn’t much left.”
Paul broke off a crooked square and popped it in his mouth. He chewed it and let it melt in his mouth, coating it with the flavour. It took him a full minute to eat the small square. When he finished he reached out and took the second bar. He put it in the girl’s bag and broke off a second square of his bar and handed it to her.
“You’re really going to want to try this,” he said. She tentatively took it and smelled it the way Paul had then ate it. He thought he saw her smile, but it was gone as quickly as it came.
“Thank you,” he said to Kate who had been intently watching them.
“Happy to share hun. So you don’t mind if I stay here tonight?”
“No,” he said sheepishly.
“Great, I’m exhausted,” she said deflating a little. “You don’t mind taking the first watch do you? I could really use the shuteye.”
“No. No problem,” he said.
“You’re a peach.” Kate said and moved over to where the girl was sitting and laid by the fire. “Come on sweetie, it’s time to get some sleep.”
The girl looked over to Paul. “Go ahead,” he said inclining his head. “It’ll be warmer there.”
The girl shuffled over to where Kate was and lay down by her feet. She made sure to be close enough to touch the woman, but out of reach herself.
The night was cold. Paul thought he knew what to expect having made it through the day, but the reality of it was frightening. He had a hard time keeping his eyes open so he busied himself with keeping the fire going as strongly as possible. The movement kept his joints from stiffening in the deadly cold.
The girl had moved and was now in the arms of the mysterious woman. Paul wasn’t sure if it was from the cold or if the girl was starting to feel more comfortable, or if in sleep she forgot where she was. He tried to figure out his own feelings about Kate. He felt a mixture of distrust and camaraderie. She was friendly and he wanted her to be genuine. Paul tried to not think about it and kept working on the fire.
He was bringing in the last of the door to burn when the woman startled him.
“Hey,” she said through a stretch. “How long have I been sleeping?”
“About five hours,” Paul said.
The woman leaned back on her arm. “Why didn’t you wake me?” she asked.
Paul kept adding to the fire. He nodded in the direction of the still sleeping girl curled up next to Kate. “Didn’t want to wake her,” he said. “It’s going to be a long day tomorrow.”
“What about you?”
“Well, I’m up now so you come here and take my place,” Kate said smiling.
“It’ll be morning in a few more hours. Might as well stay up,” Paul continued to focus on the fire.
“You don’t trust me, do you?”
“I can’t blame you,” she said. “I’m really not going to hurt either of you.” Scott looked up, but he didn’t have anything to say. Kate sat up. “Here,” she said taking off her pack and unstrapping her rifle. “Here is all my stuff. You can sleep with it.”
“What if something happens?”
“I’ll wake you up. That’s the best assurance I can think of,” she said. Her smile faded and was replaced with a look of concern. “Please get some sleep. You’re going to need it.”
Paul’s fatigue outweighed his judgement and he moved to replace Kate’s place next to the girl. He knew he would need some rest to make it though the next day’s walk. Kate moved to where Paul had been sitting and picked up his job tending the fire. Paul tried to relax and let himself feel how tired he was. The girl shifted closer to him. He hesitated but put his arm around her. Within minutes he was asleep.
The shivering woke Paul up. In his half asleep daze he tried to figure out why he was shivering. The cold was heavy and he tried to shake it off. With a start he jolted upright and looked around frantically. The girl wasn’t with him, the fire was no more than half glowing embers, and Kate was gone, along with all her things.
Scott stood up and nearly banged his head on part of the drooping ceiling. His legs felt numb, but he managed to run out of the small barn trying to spot Kate or the girl. He ran to the street, a fresh layer of thin ice covered everything, including any sign of where they may have gone. He heard his name from behind him and turned to see Kate holding the girl in her arms.
“Paul, what are you doing?” Kate said.
“Where were you? Where did you go?” Paul said through chattering teeth. He was still shivering and not only from the cold.
“She had to go pee. I brought her to the next barn over.”
“She was gone, your stuff was gone, the fire,” Paul said.
“I didn’t feel safe without my rifle and we ran out of wood an hour ago,” Kate said putting a hand on Paul’s shoulder. “It’s ok, she’s ok.”
Paul stumbled back to the barn and let himself drop. His heart was pounding painfully and his legs were numb. Kate followed him in and sat the girl down. She sat next to Paul and rubbed his legs. “You’ve got to get the blood flowing. I know it hurts but try to move them,” she said. “I’m sorry I scared you hun. I wanted to let you get as much sleep as possible.”
Kate put her arm around Paul. She called the girl over and the three of them huddled together. Paul started to calm down and warmed up a bit. His legs started to hurt, but he knew that was from the feeling coming back. After a few more minutes Kate stood up, picked up the girl and gave Paul a hand.
“Come on,” she said smiling again. “It’s morning. We’d better get going. Get your stuff; I’ll carry her for a while.” Paul thought to ask her why she was going with them but did what she said. He was still shaken and he didn’t want her to leave.
They ate on the move trying to keep their caloric intake high to fight the cold. Paul checked the map periodically, but he remembered most of the route. The walking was hard. The night had taken a toll on all three of them. The cold had a way of getting inside and settling down and the effect was cumulative. Paul’s legs still hurt and he was worried about frostbite on his still numb feet, but the longer they walked the easier it got.
The track took them through a lot of what Paul had seen the day before. Empty ice covered roads were flanked by empty frozen fields. Occasionally they would pass a patch of dead trees and the few houses they passed showed the power of the wind and cold.
They were worn out from the distance they had covered the day before, but they made good time thanks to Kate. She carried the girl for long stretches and even shouldered some of Paul’s weight when he slowed. He still wasn’t sure how she was invested in getting them to their destination on time. When he worked up the nerve to ask her she told him they were helping her find what she needed and that it wouldn’t interfere with his delivery. She ended the inquiry with another disarming smile.
Paul started to recognise land marks by the afternoon. They were getting close to where the prison was and where he spend most of his time as a driver. He handed the girl over to Kate and checked the map to make sure. The airfield was ten kilometres from the prison and they were nearly within sight of it. Paul had picked up prisoners and guards from the airfield before and traced the way to it on the map. Within a few minutes more of walking they saw the top of the control tower peeking over the horizon. Kate stopped suddenly. She crouched down and said goodbye to the girl.
“You’ll be ok,” she said. “Paul’s going to take good care of you – alright sweetie?” She gave the girl a small hug then stood up, turning to Paul. “This is where I get off hun,” she said adjusting her pack and looking off, away from the airfield.
“Thanks,” Paul said. “I, uh -”
“Don’t worry pickle, you’ll see me again.” Kate said. She then took Paul completely by surprise and kissed him on the cheek. She turned and left, leaving Paul dumbfounded. Her pace told him that he and the girl had been slowing her down. When she became hard to see in the distance Paul picked up the girl and headed for the airfield.
Paul was more surprised by what he saw at the air field than by the appearance of Kate or the initial call that led to him going outside. A small rocket was sitting on the runway, standing almost as tall as the control tower. The tapered tip flowed into a tube shaped body, with a rounded bump in the middle and fins reaching down to the tarmac. Paul could see small structures surrounding the rocket that looked like everything it would need to actually fly. Thick tubes ran from the ship to the different structures, but he could only guess what they were for. Short buildings, that looked like quick military constructions, were in between where Paul stood and the rocket. When he and the little girl reached the edge of the field, six large men in gear that matched the girl’s, surrounded them.
One of the guards picked up the girl and started to walk away. She fought and struggled to get out of his arms. Two more flanked Paul and picked him up as well, though he didn’t have as much energy to fight it. He was almost relieved to not have to stand any longer. Paul and the girl were carried to one of the structures on the runway. It was a warm open room with medical equipment and two people who looked like field medics.
The girl was handed to one of the medics. They stripped the cold gear off of her and checked her over with every tool and machine they had. Paul was dumped onto a stretcher then four of the six guards left with his and the girl’s bags. Paul was sweating in the warm room. It felt oppressive, though the medics were bundled up and the two remaining guards seemed fine in their cold gear. Paul unzipped his coat and struggled to sit up. His lungs burned and he started to feel his feet. He wasn’t looking forward to them warming up.
He strained to see the girl. She was squirming as the medics took blood and injected her with several syringes. When they were satisfied that she was healthy and uninjured they tried to put fresh white cold gear on her. Paul stood up awkwardly and tried to go over to the girl to comfort her. One of the guards pushed him back down and stood between Paul and the girl.
“She’s my responsibility,” Paul coughed. They stared at him expressionless under their masks. “I can help,” he told the medics. Paul wasn’t ready to let the girl out of his sight. He wanted to make sure she was safe before he left. “I can get her ready,” he said. She listens to me.”
The medics looked at each other and the one struggling with the girl nodded. “Fine,” he said. “Let him come over.”
Paul hobbled over and took the coat from the frustrated man. “It’s alright,” he said to the girl. “You have to get your coat and hat on. Remember how cold it is outside?” The girl nodded and let Paul bundle her back up. When she was fully covered the medic moved to take her but she clung to Paul and screamed.
“I’ll take her,” Paul said.
“I’m supposed to bring the girl out when she’s ready,” the man said.
“I can carry her,” Paul said. “She won’t put up a fuss.” The medic looked concerned, but Paul thought more for his orders than the girl. “What difference does it make if I carry her out? It’s better than her screaming and fighting you the whole way.”
The medic relented and led Paul back to the runway.
The rocket loomed above them. Paul had heard that some people had been evacuated off of Earth, but rumours were common underground – especially ones of escape. Even as large as the rocket was, it seemed too small to Paul. He remembered other rumours of space stations, moon bases and even huge ships taking people to other worlds. He marvelled at the ship as they moved closer to it.
A group of people were waiting at the base of the rocket. Guards stood around a man dressed in a multicoloured coat and hat. Wind whipped violently across the field and the girl gripped tighter. The guards parted and let them approach the man then closed around them again.
“Who the hell is this?” the man spat.
“He brought the girl, she wouldn’t go without him,” the medic said.
“So you’re telling me you can’t do your job?” Paul tensed up at the man’s anger. He was feeling more uncomfortable with his orders to deliver the girl to him. “You,” the man continued, pointing at Paul. “Give her to me, and let’s get this thing going – it’s unholy out here.” He snapped at a guard who ran to one of the buildings to pass on the message.
“No,” Paul said.
The man turned his full attention to Paul. His features were tight, but fury leaked from the lines of his face. Paul tried to stand tall and hide his fear. “Listen to me you nothing. Give me my daughter now or I’ll have you shot and tear her from your dead arms,” he screamed over the sound of the rocket coming to life. It emitted a low thrumming that quickly grew as they primed for ignition. The girl was passive in Paul’s arms, but she gripped his coat tightly. He didn’t think he was willing to die over keeping a girl from her father, especially if it would mean escape for her, but he couldn’t hand her over to the man. Paul stood defiantly and waited for someone else to make the decision.
One of the guards dropped and the echo of something momentarily surpassed the sound of the rocket then faded.
The rest of the guards were in a panic. The shot took them by surprise and they didn’t react well to it. To Paul it looked like each of them tried to perform a different drill and failed.
The angry man fell and part of what was his head was splattered on the medic’s face. Paul crouched over the girl and watched as the rest of them fell one by one. They were unable to pinpoint the shots over the sound of the rocket and within thirty seconds, Paul and the girl were the only ones left alive on the runway.
The engines continued to hum with no one left to initiate the next sequence. Paul picked up the girl and stood, not sure what to do next. He had expected to have been left to get back on his own with what supplies he still had. He didn’t plan on having the girl to take back with him.
Paul took the girl back to the medical building and scoured the rest of the runway for whatever he could find. He made sure to go back to where the girl’s father had been and get his and the girl’s bags back. After searching the other bodies he picked up the girl, checked his map and started to head back in the direction they came from.
Paul spotted the figure in the distance when they had reached the edge of the airfield. The rifle sticking up above her head gave away that it was Kate. Paul stopped and let her catch up.
“Hey there sweeties,” she said. The girl recognized her and reached out. Kate took her from Paul and spun her around making silly faces.
“Thanks,” Paul said.
“I should be thanking you,” Kate replied. “He let you walk right in there. It was sloppy of him, made him an easy target.”
“Was he her father?”
“Yeah, but not a good one.”
“He was the president.” Paul said.
“Recognized him eh? Yeah, he was going to leave us all here to freeze.”
“That can’t be the only reason you did it.”
“Naw, he had tons to answer for.” She paused, but continued when Paul didn’t say anything. “What are you going to do now?”
“Go back I guess. Not a lot of options.”
“You could come back with me,” She said. “It’s a bit more rustic than what you’re used to in that cave, but it’s warm.” She handed the girl back to him.
Paul watched her turn and walk away across the frozen field. She stopped and motioned for him to catch up.