Working it all out

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At dusk we were all up and ready to leave. Because of daylight savings and the sudden absence of rain, it actually wasn't that dark at all. As a group, we moved swiftly and, strangely, I found myself already feeling accepted by these people, as if I was one of them.

I even struck up conversations with all of them at different intervals. But mostly I talked to Owen. We chatted about everything and anything, just trying to pass the time as we moved towards the town. There was no way we could go any faster, with no access to any kind of vehicle, so we walked and trudged and tried to keep our spirits up.

I could feel the anxious anticipation of them all as John led the group; when the evidence they had about the slave labour camp was shown to the world, things were going to change. Rapidly.

I guess in a way it was all too much to process. One minute I'm trapped in a hopeless situation, and the next I'm free and heading towards the key to salvation. If you'd told me twenty-four hours ago that the events that happened would be soon to unfold, I would have laughed, coldly, and gone on my way. Suddenly I felt shivers travel all over my body; even thinking about that horrible place terrified me. The labour camp though, was now in my past and I had no intention of going back.

The walk was a long one, more than fifteen kilometers and we couldn't move very quickly, mainly due to my presence but no one mentioned it, not even when I had to stop for the tenth time in one hour because my chest felt about to burst and my vision was swaying. We stopped for longer intervals for meals, and at some points we had to shrink back into bushes and wait there when we came upon busy roads.

Finally, at past ten o'clock with barely half a kilometer to go, the group stopped and I had to think fast to stop myself from running into Raj. From our high position I could see the twinkling lights of a town just ahead and I couldn't help but wonder why we weren't pressing forwards. We were so close, almost there, and yet we stopped.

I turned to look at John in confusion as he set his pack down on the ground and started to extract the canvas. William and Lily followed suit on dumping their gear and pulling out supplies. Beside me, Owen stared at them, and then glanced at me, obviously sharing my puzzlement.

"What are we doing? The town is like just there!" He pointed through the scrub dubiously towards the lights.

John shook his head mockingly. "Alright then, do you think it's a good idea for seven obviously homeless people to just stroll into a town with no place to stay and a slave labour camp barely a car ride away all nice and ready for us to be hauled off to?" he muttered sarcastically, then stared off almost mourningly into the distance. "No. I haven't come this far and lost so much to be taken away again."

I was instantly intrigued; how could I not be when he worded it like that? Although I didn't want to pry, I sort of felt like I deserved to know what had happened to John to make him so sad.

"What do you mean by 'lost so much'?" I couldn't keep my mouth shut. "What happened to you?"

He looked balefully at me and I immediately regretted asking. Shrinking under his gaze, I was about to apologize for the question when he spoke up.

"I had a family. Before all this." he said, resting his hand on his knee as he looked our to the town. "My wife, she worked for a big-name pharmacy under government control. One day she uncovered some information she wasn't supposed to..... and then she was taken. I came home to an empty house, and then I received a call saying she'd died in an accident. I couldn't believe it, I knew it was the governments fault. So I grabbed the kids from school, took them to their aunties where they'd be safe, and headed off to the place where her body had been taken. I argued with a man who wouldn't let me see her body. I got so angry that I let slip some things I shouldn't have...." his voice cracked in pain at the memories. "Then suddenly they were gone too. My children. I stayed with them as often as I could but one, my little boy George, was snatched from the schoolyard while he was playing. He was only seven. I've searched and searched but I haven't found him anywhere.... and I... I don't think I ever will. My daughter went in for a vaccination one time at school, and when they put the needle in her she died. They told me some baloney about a rare reaction to the compounds in the vaccine but by then I was just...... so distraught at all these 'coincidences' that I didn't believe it for a second. So I started working hard, trying to find the files my dear Joanna had discovered and anything else that would give the world evidence to crack down on the government - to fix things. But they were too powerful. They had me fired from my job, my house burnt down, and I was forced to live on the streets, all purely coincidental, apparently, mind you. Recently I met all these guys, each with their own story of tragedy. We worked together to find evidence and put together important contacts, people who believed us and who hadn't been discredited yet. The deeper we went, the worse it got. It isn't just my family or theirs; everyone's at risk, while all the big toffs do is get richer and richer. So that's why I do this. That's why I've devoted every day of my life since then to bringing this bleeding corrupt government down. Now you know."

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