Chapter 9 - Part 1

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Major Coleman called for one of his men. "Get them out of here," The soldier nodded. Major Coleman turned to us. "This is Private Samson. He'll keep you kids safe. Now go!"

"Follow me," Private Samson said. He ran ahead to the truck for us to follow. "What do you plan to do?" I asked Major Coleman.

"Keep it here while you kids get away, run it out the clock," I lingered for a moment. I want to tell Major Coleman that it's still a while till sunrise. He must have noticed my being quiet because he said, "Don't worry about it. Just go!"

I heeded his command. Reaching the truck, we stepped up the lowered tailgate. It was a light cargo truck, enclosed on all sides but the open area here on the rear. Sand-colored tarpaulin fastened around the metal skeleton of the interior of the truck, serving as body panels. A portable, camping LED lantern was hanging in the middle. There were long wooden, benches on either side, which are immediately occupied. Cana was sitting to my left, closest to the retractable steps I've climbed up to. She scooted over so I took that as a sign to sit down next to her. When everyone was accounted for, Private Samson flipped up the door, bolted it secure and ran to the driver's seat.

The truck was bare, except for the green, rectangular cases under the benches, one directly below me. "Open the cases," he said from up front, through the square cut on the tarpaulin separating us from the truck's cab. I pulled the crate out from underneath and opened it. The crates contained searchlights arranged in rows. The same kind they've been using.

"Arm yourselves," I grabbed a few from my box and passed it along, keeping one to myself. I pressed my thumb on the switch and slide it up, frantic to see if it works. And a beam of violet light gave me a bit of relief. At least this way, I can protect myself. The Shade won't be able to take me that easy.

The engine sputtered to life, it hummed into a steady beat and we were on our way. Away from this place, away from the Shade. As we drive away, I lie back on the bench and let out a long, drawn sigh. Around me were kids with puffy eyes and red noses. Some had messed-up hairs. The siblings were holding each other in a protective embrace, never letting go for even a second. Leo slumped back to his seat, his head leaning against the metal frame of the truck. We were exhausted, terrified beyond belief. 

I looked at Cana at she gave me a smile. Not the one she usually wears. There's something to this one that seems... fake. Yes. A smile to hide what she truly feels inside. Fear. Dread. And maybe a bit of relief. We all managed to keep ourselves from losing it, despite everything.

Sitting on the rear, I can easily see Major Coleman with only three of his men left. They were still positioned outside, flashlights beaming, immersing the front of the dorm in violet rays. But they don't have enough men to cover the entire building. The Shade could still get outside through the back, off the rooftop. The situation looked hopeless, desperate even. I can't bring myself to believe that they will be able to stop the Shade from coming after us.

As if on cue, the wall of the second floor erupted with a boom! Smashed bricked rained down the flower beds on the side of the dorm. Even with a safe distance away, it made us jumped our seats. The brief peace we had was gone, replaced with terrified cries.

Some of the kids scurry to the front, feeling safer near Private Samson. The rest rushed to the rear, crowding Cana and I. We kept our eyes on the source of the loud crash. On the side of the building, we saw it. A fully regenerated Shade. I locked eyes with it. Red, scornful eyes. Major's men went after it. But the Shade ignored them. It disappeared into the trees parallel to the non-existent road we're on.

"On the floor," Private Samson yelled. "Now!" He then instructed us to sit down in a circle, our back on each other so we can cover every inch of the interior of the truck. I was positioned facing the open area of the rear. With our searchlights on, we waited. We waited for what seemed like forever. But we've heard nothing except the engine revving up as the truck picks up speed.

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