Chapter Six ~Travis~

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It's Maddie. I know it is. I take off running and call out to her, but she doesn't slow down. "Stop Maddie! Stop!" Does she not realize it's me? "Maddie, its Travis!" I yell.  Instead of veering left or right as I assume she would, she continues straight with only the edge of a mountain ahead. "Maddie please!" I'm catching up to her as she stops, her feet inches from the cliff. Panic begins to set in when she doesn't turn to face me. She doesn't look down below; her head remains forward. A vast canyon lies before her, and she doesn't seem concerned with the 500 foot drop that lies just beyond the tip of her feet. I need to get her away from the edge of this cliff.

I'm thankful that I removed my vest, radio, and weapons back in the jeep. Hunter fatigues are all black so they won't give me away. There is no way Maddie could know I'm a Hunter, but obviously with the state she's in, the realization that I'm part of the Militia unit she's been running from might further fuel the disconnect that had her running from me in the first place. "Maddie, it's me. It's Travis," out of breath, the words sound more like a plea than a statement. She doesn't respond. She still doesn't turn to face me.  I take a small step towards her, my boots crunching the dirt below my feet. Willing calm to my voice I say, "Maddie, it's me. It's---"

"Don't!" she states firmly. I freeze, and slowly she turns around. My heart drops. "Oh Maddie," I want to pull her into my arms as the anguish of what I'm seeing takes hold, but I won't dare. Her face is sun beaten, her lips chapped, and her cheeks hollow. She looks so thin and frail; the dirty clothes she's wearing hang loosely off her body. She's looking at me, but right through me, and I'm gutted. Her eyes which once held so much life within them are now empty, haunted. What has happened to her? My heart sinks even deeper into my chest as my mind grapples with the guilt I feel for not finding her sooner. Fear begins to take hold as I question what horrors she must have endured to make her this way. But now is not the time to deal with this shit. Right now I have to get her off this ledge and out of here, so I force the emotions down and lock them away to be dealt with later.

My partner, Sanders should be here any minute, and he doesn't know about Maddie. I saw her as were driving back to base after a training exercise. I couldn't believe my eyes, and shouted for him to stop the Jeep. I took off running without explanation, never slowing even as he called out after me.

"Maddie?"  I slowly dip my head down hoping the small shift will force her back from the place she's lost within her mind and into this present moment with me. Just as I hoped, her eyes follow the movement of my head as she searches for my eyes, and I see the moment it happens; the connection is made...she finally sees me.

"Travis?" The confusion that passes over her face is replaced by a glimmer of hope within her eyes. Just as I let out a sigh of relief, her attention is pulled away from me as she looks over my shoulder. Fuck! Fuck! It's Sanders! When her eyes come back to mine, any hope has been replaced by what I can only describe as confusion followed quickly by betrayal.

Sanders voice drives out the silence between us as he opens up radio signal and speaks, "This is Lieutenant Sanders. Lieutenant Brennan has pursued and apprehended a possible Breeder. Location: 33.3308333 / -95.5552778. Over."

The betrayal in her eyes flashes to anger, then she is quickly overtaken by grief.  "Maddie, let me explain," my voice steady and low. I hear Sanders approaching from behind. I raise my voice, my eyes never leaving hers, "Sanders go back to the jeep!" Trusting me and my judgment he doesn't question me. In fact he doesn't say a word. He turns and walks away. I remain silent until his footsteps fade into the distance behind me.

"Maddie, it's not what you think." I need to get her away from that fucking ledge. "Please just take a step towards me and we can---"

"No," falls from her lips in a whisper. "How could you Travis?" Tears fall down her cheeks, "How could you?" she whispers, then she turns and steps off the cliff. I lunge towards her.

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