Chapter 45: Seekers

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January 2, 2358

Mount Rushmore National Monument


The small group had only been walking for roughly two hours before the first major gust of wind forewarned them. It burst through the trees, from the canopy tops to their snow-covered roots. White powder shot up into the air and blasted towards them with a single purpose.

"Drop! Now!" Jace shouted, suiting action to words.

In the same instant, Ari shoved Eila to the ground and began shoveling snow overtop of her. "It's a Seeker. It's looking for body temperature readings and anything out of the ordinary. Cover yourselves in snow. Now!"

Just as she was doing for Eila, Cai dragged Ris to the ground and began packing the white fluff all around her. That is, until Ari practically tackled him to begin the same ministrations. Only afterwards did she attempt to burrow into the ground and cover herself in her own white blanket. Jace was the only one left to help her, though she didn't seem to need it. Like a snake slithering through the foliage, Ari laid flat on her stomach and wriggled her way through the snow, taking care to sufficiently coat her face and hands. Her back was what she had the most trouble covering, but Jace seemed to appear out of a snow mound and get her covered at the very end of their three minute warning.

Lying with his face pressed into the snow, Cai had more trouble seeing than they did. Every time he opened his eyes, white powder dropped off of his lashes. It was just the kind of thing that made him sick. Because this snow wasn't sticking well enough and another gust of wind like that would likely blow them all bare. And despite the fact that these men were working on behalf of his mother, and that he should want to go home to her, a nagging suspicion lingered in his mind to remind him that every person was a suspect. Anyone could want them dead.

Another blast came through the trees just then and he had the misfortune of having his eyes open at the time, making it seem as if someone had turned on a blow dryer directly in front of them. That's when he saw it. An incredible aircraft made for low-altitude hovering with a glossy black exterior and an underbelly coated with scanners. And his heart sunk.

Though Ari had proclaimed their main usage to be thermal detection, he knew what those scanners were capable of. Each one was like a miniature satellite camera. They could capture a name scrawled in tiny handwriting on the underside of a bridge, if that's what was required of them. To be hovering over them at such a low altitude—barely skimming the treetops—there was no way to miss the footprints or makeshift camp only a few hours back. No way to hide the fact that five people were buried in the snow in a desperate bid to mask themselves from such advanced technology. In short, they were doomed.

"Ari," Cai hissed, receiving an immediate shushing noise in return. Trying to smother his panic, Cai's eyes followed the magnificent Seeker. That's when he noticed the United Nations Security Administration seal on the side. There were no country of origin tags. Which meant this beast was specifically under his mother's authority.

"Ari," he tried again, earning a glare from Jace. "Ari, it saw us. We have to get out of here."

"Shut up," the soldier growled at him while his eyes never left the Seeker.

Feeling the pit opening in his stomach, Cai turned his head just slightly to catch the aircraft as it silently moved off further west. For several moments, they all watched as it drifted just a little further way. When the others felt as if they were finally able to breathe, however, Cai stayed frozen in his terror. Because he knew what they were yet willing to deny.

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