Captain Li fed up. It wasn't anything fancy. It was Chinese military rations. Therefore, like most rations, not the greatest. She really was trying to show she was sincere and meant us no harm. Yes, it did occur to me she might have drugged the food, so we did pick at random the different things and tried them. While American cuisine was pretty worldly, Jefferson had limited options and limited ingredients, since some plants and animals just couldn't be raised. It meant we had our own cuisine in the making and Chinese, real Chinese, was rather different than ours.
It wasn't bad per se, but not what we were used to.
With a little food and some time to calm down, we were starting to get back into the snarky side. We were still a little nervous.
Captain Li made one more request then: she insisted on collecting our boosters and the balklavas. She didn't want us to contact the grownups before she was done with her mission and didn't want us to try to sneak away. She would never think some frontier kids would ever be sneaky enough to get away and cause problems. Especially not us. Oh no. She just wanted to be sure. As a precaution, you know.
She was being snarky on top of cuting us AND being honest AND treating us like almost adults even. This woman was dangerous. She knew what buttons to press. And despite knowing this, against my better judgment, I started to like her.
Something inside her battle armor meeped, apparently whatever direct neural link she'd ignored while talking to us and this was the backup talking to her. Her eyes glazed over for a moment, distracted as she communed with her machine side and then she blinked and gave orders in Chinese. All the other soldiers save one put on their helmets.
Captain Li turned to us and told us they were off to hunt the Indians. She was leaving one soldier to watch over us and make sure nothing happened - whether to us or us escaping! They would be back later, hopefully when their mission was accomplished.
With that, Captain Li and six soldiers left through the cave flap opening and the lone soldier who didn't seem to know English released the bug zapping drone again.
We sat and sat and waited. Boredom was killing us. Worse than leeches and taxitos. We were going more than a bit nuts. Then Tom did the only rational thing we could do. He took a nap! WHAT THE HECK!
It was rational. It was actually very smart. It was also infuriating. Then Jackie curled up as well and slept. TRAITOR!
Two hours in, they woke up and Tom gave us is surliest grin I'd ever seen from him. We returned the looked with the scorchingest glares we could muster. Jackie we might not talk to ever again, but that "ever again" would probably last a whole two seconds. But, you know, it was the thought that counted.
We were chatting quietly about nothing of import, trying to stave off death by boredom, when there was a CRACK!
The soldier's helmet spun around and went bouncing.
She rose so fast it almost seemed like one second she was sitting and then she was standing. Her gun pointed out the cave. Then somebody swung down and into the cave, totally smashing through the membrane covering door. The soldier fired and it was deafening in the cave and we ducked to the ground and covered our ears.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
She hit the person charging towards her. The individual staggered, grabbed her and then stuffed something in her face. We heard the buzzing and started screaming. It was a bag. A bag full of TAXITOS!
WE WERE ALL GOING TO DIE!
She screamed too and when she inhaled...taxitos. Uber yuck.
She collapsed and the person who had attacked her collapsed on top of her. We were cowering in the corner when the attacker pushed himself up and grabbed the zapper drone. He flipped it on and it went to work. Given how many seemed to be burned from the air near us, it was not a moment too soon.
The person pushed himself up and we saw: it was Helmet.
He'd come to save us.
Not that we were really in any danger, but...
It seems to me a lot of the danger we've been in on this adventure had been the adults thinking or doing things that got US in danger. Well intentioned those actions might have been, they made this whole thing far more dangerous than we ever would have faced on our own.
Nonono, I'm not facing the fact WE went out into this situation on our own. Nope! Can't Make me! Nyah!
Helmet moved to sit and looked at us. He was in very bad shape. The soldier had fired true. if not for the armor, he'd be splattered all over the place. He smiled at us and pushed himself up onto his knees. Then he rummaged around and found our headgear. He threw it to us. We really, really quickly put it on.
He told Jaideep had died in the fighting and he'd escaped to try to flee to Shadwell to turn himself in. However, he felt guilty about us and came looking. He found our trail and followed us. He had to hide like we had when the Marines came through. Then he followed the rest of the way. He saw there were too many soldiers to take on by himself, so he ordered his drones to attack the Chinese drones when they got close to the Church again. That drew the Chinese off. And here he was. For a little while. It was obvious he didn't have long.
He removed his helmet. And, yes, he was definitely not Indian. Based on his accent and his appearance, probably Nigeria. Almost certainly given everything we'd heard. He had me come over and take something. It was a small data drive and told me to take it home. I did, but knew I had to get rid of it. The Chinese were likely to find us and if I had that...not good.
He told us it was time to run again and wished us well. He prayed something, something quiet and told us to go. We did. We ran. We ran out of the cave as fast as we could and beelined towards Shadwell as fast as our still growing legs could take us. As we ran, we synced with our boosters. It takes longer when you are doing something else: we were calling home as fast as we could.
About ten minutes after, I stopped and picked a distinctive rock and hid the data drive under it.
And then we ran.
The boosters were still syncing.