Chapter 5

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Jamie ran and ran. She might be half-starved but she was quick, quick and sure footed. As she ran she chanted a little mantra to herself: "Refugee camp bad, she'll understand."

She didn't trust the Nori and couldn't be sure it wasn't a setup. Or that the Nori herself might be arrested. No, she'd done the right thing by saving her skin. She was no use to anyone dead. Now she just had to get back to Wei and warn him.


She almost stumbled. He told her to bring the Nori.

"He'll understand," she told herself. "It was a whole patrol." But suddenly she wasn't so sure. She could see Serena mocking her, rosebud lips turned up in a sneer. Banishment. Death. This. Running, always running away.

She stopped, clutched her thin tee, feeling as if she stood on a spinning globe about to get hit by a shower of meteorites. The stars slipped above her, jagged metal struts holding up fragile tiles of sky. She sat down, smelt the cold air, always somehow cleaner and sharper at night. Something hard dug into her thigh through her threadbare pants. Holding her bare left toe in her hand, as if anchoring herself, Jamie dug into her pocket, extracting the disc with waypoints. She wavered, then stood up abruptly, leaving the bit of tin on the ground. It was up to the Buddha now.

She sprinted off, bare feet raising a cloud of dust as she ran. By now her feet were so tough, tanned with chemicals, and weathered by twisted nail and broken glass that she picked her way instinctively through the new moon blotted terrain. Hours later she stopped at a deserted gas station, one of the few markers Ping would have to use if she came this way.

Jamie climbed to a section of roof that looked as if it may hold out one more day and settled herself to wait. She dug under a corner of it until her fingers felt and extracted a small parcel. She was glad her old stash was still here. Tucking this under her head as a pillow, she decided to put the time to good use gathering her strength. Just in case.

Dawn sent the stars crashing down on her. She woke to two realisations.

By now the camp had surely moved on. They had five hours on her.

By now she'd missed Ping, who was probably well on her way to meeting Wei.

On a more positive note Ping could be lying dead on the side of a crumbling concrete roadside. Jamie wasn't sure how she felt about that scenario. It would solve her dread of the Nori but wouldn't help the situation with Wei.

She opened her eyes and almost screamed. As though she'd conjured the Nori with her dark thoughts, Ping squatted above her head, staring menacingly as if she was one big cat that wanted feeding. Jamie could see her reflection in those weird goggly glasses she wore. She watched herself turn so pale she almost faded into the bleached iron roof.

"Don't even try that stunt," said Ping. Her skin tight all-weather suit moved with her as she tensed. It must have been under her kimono.

"I'm so glad you're here," said Jamie, smiling wanly. "We're very late. The camp moved on five hours ago." When Jamie was nervous, she repeated things.

"What's to stop me neutralising you now and finding them myself," said Ping.

" I know for sure where their next stop is," said Jamie, feeling like decade old road kill.. "I overheard them talking. Can I get up now?"

"Fine," she said, moving aside fluidly. "Let's go."

"You should probably change clothes," suggested Jamie, holding up a pathetic little bundle.

"Wei will be happy with me for thinking of that," she thought. "Help her blend in. That's my job. Then he'll get the cash. He'll be pleased."

Ping looked at it, seemed to consider options then said: "Fine, give it here. I'll change later" She shoved it in the backpack and jerked her head. Time to go. They had some catching up to do or they'd both be failing on day one.

I thought I'd give you a peek into Jamie's head. This might be a limited view only though, before I change it back to Ping's. What do you think? I'm not sure I'd want to wake up to an angry Ping!

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