Chapter Thirteen

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It felt like I'd never left.

The cold. The wind. The dead trees, towering above waiting for warmth to come and allow them to bloom.

And endless snow. As I walked through the cold, I could feel flakes falling on my hair. They piled up and I was forced to swipe them away.

The group couldn't be too far ahead. Their footprints proved otherwise. I had to be careful, though: if I went too fast they'd see me, but if I went too slow, the snow would cover their tracks and I'd lose them.

As the sky darkened, the footsteps became clearer. I was gaining ground on them. They must have slowed down. I was about to walk right over another icy hill, when I froze. I jumped down into the snow. The group was just over the hill, talking in a circle.

And included in the group was Asten.

A spike of jealousy rose in me. Why was it that he got to go on this trip, and I was never asked to? Maybe it was illogical for me to complain since I was injured, but I was still frustrated. Didn't any of them hear our fight? Did he try to cover it up and that's why they still trusted him?

My eyes roamed across the expanse of snow just over the hill. There must have been some reason they stopped. Suddenly, a figure appeared out of the trees near where the group was standing. For a second, nobody moved. Then, Mace began speed walking towards the other person.

I suspected that this was one of the missing people. Now, the two were hugging. I tried to move over the hill to get a better view, and ended up slipping. I fell quickly down the other side before grabbing a tree and pulling myself behind it. My heart pumped faster than before.

When I turned to look back towards the gathering, three more people had arrived from the woods to join the group. At a closer distance, I could see the faces of everyone: besides Asten and Mace there were maybe four other people. Each had guns strapped to their backs and identical packs.

The missing people began to merge with the other group, each person quickly hugging each of the group members as they began conversing. Everything seemed to be okay. I hadn't even done anything.

Go back, I thought to myself. I had to leave. They would be coming back up in this direction any minute and they would find me. I didn't have anywhere to hide if they came up here, since the trees were scarce.

I'd made my decision, and was turning to leave when it happened.

In seconds, they were surrounded, with guns to each of their heads. It was almost hard to see the people holding the guns. They wore all gray: gray cloth covering half their faces, gray boots, and gray clothes.

Mace's friends had been a trap.

And now I could only watch as people who'd selflessly helped me were taken down.

Slowly, each of them put their hands up in surrender. Noise erupted as the soldiers began speaking to each other and closing in. They seemed completely unafraid, like they were used to doing this. I watched in horror as they pulled out handcuffs and began chaining them together.

I didn't know what to do.

I couldn't just leave them now, as much as I wanted to. I hadn't really expected this.

But if I did try to go and help them... they would all know that I'd followed, and they might not trust me again.

I stared on in indecision as they were lead away from the clearing. I still had my back pressed against the bark of the tree when the last of the gray outfitted men left. My breathing had become staggered with the fear of being found. I could return to the diner and tell someone, but by then they'd be far gone. Another option was abandoning them and pretending I'd never gotten out.

But abandoning them would be cruel. Mace hadn't done that to me when we'd met. He'd taken me in.

If I did try to save them...they would all overlook the fact that I blatantly disobeyed their rules. I could even be considered a hero. Wasn't that why I came out here in the first place?

I looked at the abandoned clearing, and made my decision.

I was going after them.

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