Chapter Six

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"We're gonna get into so much trouble if we get caught." Rachel whispered. When the others had come to get her, Rachel had been so eager to get away from Ruth that she surprised herself by how quickly she'd gathered the courage to leave the compound. But now, out there in the real world, all she wanted was to go back.

"No one is going to find out," Hector began. "They're all too busy fighting over stupid things while we're out here actually trying to do something useful."

"Yeah," Juan said. "I can't believe it. Here we are, trying to find out about a fake mark that could possibly save their asses if they ran into a poacher and they're in there arguing about some crazy dude!"

Simone, her and the Hernandez brothers were all clad in black clothes good for camouflaging into the surroundings and each carried a gun they'd smuggled out of the weapons room in case the mark maker turned out to be crazy. And if by some horrible stroke of luck they managed to run into poachers, they wanted to be able to fight back, too.

They were working their way down the mountain on the east side, where there had once been a highway. All that was left now were twisted metal bumpers and old Transition model cars. The group wound around them quietly.

"We'll show them," Jose muttered. "All those times they've ignored us telling them about the fake mark...when they see they'll have no choice but to thank us."

"We're not doing this for the fame, we're doing it to protect our families." Hector said with disapproval heavy in his voice. "You'd do good not to forget that."

Rachel turned away to look into the forest, where the shadows were thick and looming. She was nervous about going back in there, especially after what had happened the last time but if there was a chance, even a small one, to help keep her people from being killed or captured right on the spot then it was worth it to venture back into the woods.

For the millionth time that night, Elena's face burned in her mind, tormenting her. Carl, the baby- they were both there too. She felt as though they would come crawling out of the shadows- they couldn't really be gone, not the way that they had.

Rachel couldn't imagine dying that way, but judging by the heartless look in the eyes of the marked ones, she no longer doubted the rules of the compound that they should never venture out into the forest alone.

Then what are you doing out here now, crazy?

Twigs cracked behind them and Rachel jump. Hector laughed, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

 "I promise you the forest animals won't hurt you

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"I promise you the forest animals won't hurt you. Besides, if they try to, we'll protect you." This made Rachel smile a little. She didn't particularly like the Hernandez brothers but in that very moment she had to admit that she felt a little safer knowing they were there.

"How much longer?" Simone asked.

"A little ways more. He lives in a cabin, S'got the place all booby trapped for poachers." Jose explained. The boys were leading the way and Rachel and Simone were following close behind.

"How did you guys even find this guy?" Simone's voice filled the other-wise silent night.

"We heard rumors in the compound and we thought; What if we could get everyone in the compound to get a fake mark? That's gotta confuse the poachers even a little and that's all we'd really need to catch them off guard and be the first to shoot." Hector explained.

"We tried tracking down a guy that's supposedly related to the Mark Maker but turns out he was long gone." Juan continued. "So then we went to our missing guy's pop and he told us the kid had run off to the city."

A small, sharp pain twisted within Rachel. So Jed hadn't been the only runaway. Try hard as she might, she couldn't find any reason to want to go to a place filled with terrible people but maybe she was the minority, and everyone else would have rather lived in the city where life was a thousand times more easy than at the compound.

"Then what happened?" Rachel asked. Jose shook his long, curly hair out of his eyes.

They'd finally made it down the mountain and the youngest Hernandez brother pushed a tree branch out of the way for the others to go through. "The pop told us that we were stupid to even look for the guy- no way to imitate the mark, not really, he said. He called us lunatics."

"Yeah-crazy old man," Juan chimed. "We caught a wild rabbit and convinced the old fart to take it in exchange for information and that was all we needed."

"But how do we know we'll even find him? He could be gone already for all we know." Simone had a point. In Rachel's mind, that was even more reason to turn back now and forget this crazy search.

"Because we already found him," Hector turned to look at the girls and shot them a confident grin.

Rachel had more questions-lots more and the Hernandez brothers seemed eager to answer them but suddenly there was the sound of an aircraft overhead.

On instinct, they rushed behind a grove of bushes. An aircraft meant city people and city people meant danger-especially to the unmarked.

A large, white aircraft buzzed by and Rachel noticed all the lights were off. It droned on nearly invisible and silent as a ghost.

She felt a knot form in her stomach. They're almost past the compound, she thought. Almost. And then they'll be gone and we'll be okay.

"We should go back," She said uneasily.

"Look," Juan pointed in the direction of the mountain. "They've stopped. Why are they stopping, Hector?"

Hector's face looked as nervous as humanly possible. For some reason, the look on his face prompted Rachel's worst fears to rush to the front of her mind.

They were all still, not one of them daring to even breath as they waited to see what would happen next.

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