Ryth, Mischa and Skylar approached the cabin with slow caution. They didn't want the hunter to get any ideas about them.
"You do the talking, Mischa, I'll see what else I can find out." Ryth ordered. She nodded and stepped up to the sturdy door, knocking hard on it. They waited.
"Hello?" The bearded man said cautiously, opening the door a crack.
"Hello sir. We were wondering if we could talk to you for a moment," the dark haired girl said politely. His eyes widened as he saw the black cloaks they were wearing. He opened the door and let them in. "Thank you Mister…"
"Morris, Len Morris. What can I do for you?"
"We are looking for a girl of about seventeen years who we believe passed through here yesterday. She has long blonde hair and is quite bedraggled."
"Oh, ah, I see. I might have…you see, she was in my house and I only wanted to scare her aways," he bumbled.
"What happened, Mister Morris?"
"I was going to shoot into the air a couple of times, but I slipped on the steps and I think I shot her," he looked terrified.
The girl looked quickly at the older boy, he nodded once. "Thank you Mister Morris, you have been most helpful." She said, and with that they were gone.
"I don't know, the older ones are bad enough, but these young Reapers are giving me the heebie jeebies," he muttered to himself, feeling quite relieved they were gone.
"Was it true?" Skylar looked to Ryth for confirmation.
"He lied about his name, but that's not surprising. The rest was true."
"She went this way yesterday," Mischa said, tilting her head and pointing in a northerly direction.
"From here on we have to be very quiet. No talking unless we have to, and look for signs of any blood on the ground. I need to know how well she's fixed that wound; I don't want her slowing us down once we've found her." The other two agreed silently, and they followed the girls trail.
Hazel looked carefully at the trees around her. She had been travelling all day, and was still not sure how much ground she had covered. Her wounded leg confirmed that she had definitely been moving, but her instincts told her that something was wrong. In the evening light, she sat down and began making camp, digging a small hole in the ground to light her fire so no one would see.
After she'd eaten a measly meal, she opened a small zippered section of her bag and took out the only book she still had. It was handwritten, and she recognised the writing from so many fire lit readings. "The Records of the Freedom Rebellion meetings, beginning A.R. 25, ending – " there was no ending date. Below that there were the names of the seven Freedom Rebellion Leaders. The last name – Alathea XX5 – was the one Hazel lingered on. Her mothers name.
Hazel remembered when she had first seen this book, when she was ten. Her mum had given her a conspiratory wink and opened the book. The first thing Hazel had asked was what the XX5 stood for after her name.
"A long time before the Rebirth, people used to have two names," she had told Hazel, "One was their first name, like Hazel or Alathea, and one was their second name. People could tell who your mother or father was by your second name."
"Like the Neutrals are doing now?" Hazel had asked.
"Yes, like the Neutrals are doing. After the Rebirth, the Creators decided that we should not be given second names, but classifications instead. I am Alathea XX5 because I am the fifth female created after the Rebirth." Hazel understood the significance of that now. From reading this precious book, she had learned that the XX actually referred to her as a female, while an XY would be a male. That made Hazel's classification XX5-1 because she was Alathea's first and only daughter.
She read the book every night, looking for clues to what had happened to the other leaders, and whether they had children. If she could find other children of the Leaders, maybe they could reform the Freedom Rebellion. That was her hope.
The two cloaked figures crept towards the low, flickering fire in silent anticipation. They saw the girl's things lying closest to them. Quickly they moved into the light, ready to pounce. She wasn't there.
"Where is she?" Mischa asked. Quickly she looked into the shadows on her left and saw two figures emerging. Ryth half-carried, half dragged the girl into the light of the fire.
"We have her." He smiled.