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Skye wound the car around the first of the mountain's curves and pulled in a quick breath at what lay in front of them. Jesse and Kelsey gasped. Then the car was silent except for the hum of the engine.

Ahead two empty cars, one blue and one greed sedan, sat across the road, in the same manner as police would barricade a road. Skye's stomach tensed, hard as a rock. 

Skye slammed her foot to the brake and looked in her rearview mirror. Reed and Spencer jolted to a stop behind her. She scanned the road. It was narrow and tree-lined with a long drop off on the side and the steep side of a hill on the other.

Her mind sifted through the options so fast, she wasn't aware of her decision until she threw the car into reverse up. Reed copied her and floored it, tires spinning and car squealing in protest.

"No," Skye murmured throwing one more look at the empty cars before she followed Reed, "no, no, no, no." Who are these people? What do they want? I'm not waiting to find out. Everything had gone so smoothly, why couldn't it keep going smoothly? Skye pressed down the sob swelling in her throat. 

A slam and the clash and screech of metal on metal reverberated through the mountain. Skye sweaty hands tightened on the steering wheel.

"Mom, look!" Jesse said.

A third car had come up behind them. In his determination to get away from whoever this was,  Reed crashed into the vehicle and now pushed it toward the side of the road, toward the dropoff. It was slow going, but Skye could see the set of Reed's jaw through the windshield. He would do everything he could to send that car tumbling end over end.

Spencer sat in the driver's seat, peering up the mountain. His strong hands gripped his shotgun. Skye knew if sheer will could save them, they already had them beat. 

Anger at these people started to flare in Skye, heating her chest. Isn't life hard enough without people pulling this kind of crap? What is wrong with them?

Reed almost had the car at the edge, but the momentum was slowing. There was a space, a small space between them and the side of the hill. Spencer's hand shot out of the car window and waved Skye around.

They couldn't make it, not the way it was now. But if Reed was able to push them just a little more, Skye's car might just be able to squeeze through the narrow opening.

"Okay, here we go, kids. Hang on."

Skye laid a heavy foot on the gas. She needed control of the vehicle to get through this, she might be pushing too. She squeaked and squealed past Reed and Spencer as the metal protesting against the abuse causing their ears to ache. 

"Go! Just go!" Spencer said as they passed their car.

"Spencer." Skye didn't want to desert them, but there was little choice.

"You have the kids and the meds. Go!"

Skye nodded her head. Tears flooded her eyes, and she scrubbed her face with her sleeve. Her gaze intent on the road, Skye leaned forward in her seat. She was almost free.

The squeal of tires and revving of fresh engines made her heart drop. Behind them, two trucks had appeared. There was no getting out of this now.

Skye looked at Jesse and Kelsey's pale faces, sure that hers was no better. She put a hand to her forehead and closed her eyes.

When she opened them, the pack with the medicines is what she saw. She grabbed it and glanced around. Other then the three drivers in their vehicle, there was no one else. And Skye's sat close enough to the edge of the road.

"Jesse. Kelsey. Take this pack and run down the mountain."

Jesse squared his shoulders. "Mom—"

"Jesse! You have to go now! This needs to get to Dylan for him to survive. And I don't want Kelsey here. I need you to do this. I have Spencer and Reed. Okay?"

Reluctant, Jesse's face twisted for a moment before he clamped his lips together. He was quick to get himself under control. "Okay."

"Once I know your safe, I'll follow."

"Okay." He grabbed the straps of the pack, his knuckles white. He looked at Kelsey. "Ready?"

"Ready." Her voice was shaky, but she gave Jesse a sharp nod. 

Skye reached out and tossed his hair. "I love you, Jesse. You've got this."

He grabbed her hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "Me too, Ma."

Then he was gone.

Jesse and Kelsey scrabbled a few steps, then bent low as they neared the enemy car Reed had almost pushed off the road.

They had almost made it to the edge when a man's voice echoed through the hills. "Stop! Stop right there, or we will shoot you." At that, the drivers left their cars, each with a gun on Jesse and Kelsey.

Jesse and Kelsey instantly straightened and held their shaking hands high. Her heart in her throat, Skye slid her handgun into the back of her jeans and covered it with her hoodie. Then she stepped out of the car.

When she caught Jesse's eye, he tipped his head toward the woods. Skye understood. He had tossed the backpack there. She nodded back, but right now she worried more about him and Kelsey.

Skye heard the crunch of feet stomping dry leaves and twigs in the woods behind her and whipped around. Eight men and women emerged, all armed, and stepped onto the road behind her car. A chill ran through her. She ran to Jesse and Kelsey, standing in front of them.

A man broke off from the rest. In a different world, the old one, Skye would have thought him a father. Rather short and carrying extra weight around the middle, one expected to see a kid or two handing off his side. Instead, two buff army-types stood alongside him. At rest, the man's round face held a pleasant look, jovial even.

"I'm Jack," the man said. "and I want to apologize for this. I really do. But I have no choice. My family has to eat, has to be safe. I do whatever is necessary to keep them that way."

Two of Jack's group broke off and herded Reed and Spencer her way, Skye said, "Hello Jack. I'm Skye. These are my children, Jesse and Kelsey. And my friends, Reed and Spencer." Skye cleared her throat. "I understand. These are unusual times, and I feel the same way. I hope we can come to some sort of agreement."

"Oh, we will. But you aren't going to like it."


A/N: Thank you for your patience! I will be back on my regular once-a-week schedule again. If you enjoyed the chapter, please press the little star.

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