Chapter 35~ Time For Thought~

She couldn't help but laugh. Trust Dallas to be able to help her without even being here. However she was confused about one thing: where did Dallas get the virus?

A sudden thought occurred to her. "Is this virus erasing all files or only some?"

Mr. Jackson's voice was strained when he answered, "All files. And it's playing havoc to all our systems. Locks, security measures and the like are malfunctioning. This wrecks my plan completely. I was going to get you out tonight. I'll have to do it now!"

Calida started. "What? Now? Why?"

"Well they're going to want me to punish someone for this as soon as possible and you're the likely choice. I can't let them know I've had a change of heart. We have to go now. Turn around!"

She did so unquestioningly. Mr. Jackson replaced the handcuffs that he took off earlier. Quickly he took her arms and led her to the door.

Once outside Mr. Jackson sent the guards on an errand, telling them he would return her to her room. Instead, once they were out of sight, he pushed her in the other direction.

"Stay close. I'll get you outside. From then on you're on your own. We have to make a quick stop first", he added.

Calida made sure that she remained at the back of Mr. Jackson's heels the whole time. People ran back and forth, not seeing her at all, too content on their own problems. The sirens sounded continually and their red lights flashed every two seconds creating an almost disco feeling. Suddenly Mr. Jackson stopped and Calida ended up standing on his heels.

"Sorry", she mumbled.

He didn't reply and quickly unlocked a door to his right. Calida entered a plush, expensively decorated room.

"My office", he said, offering an explanation.

She stood uncomfortably in the middle of the room, as Mr. Jackson rushed over to a big, expansive desk made of thick wood. He pulled open the first draw and removed an envelope. Calida watched apprehensively as Mr. Jackson walked towards her; envelope still in hand.

"Calida, in this envelope is the deed to a beach house on the shore of Lilley Valley Beach, about 100kms out south of town. It's a pretty isolated place. I brought this house for your mother years ago but that was just before things turned bad." He paused, as if thinking. "Anyway, it's been empty all these years. I want you to have it. It can't be traced. Also in this envelope are the keys and some cash."

"Thank you", Calida replied breathlessly. This was more than she expected.

Mr. Jackson put a hand on her shoulder. "Good bye and good luck." Calida nodded stupidly. "Quick, let's go."

Back out in the corridor Mr. Jackson directed her effortlessly through the people. After a couple of lefts and a right Calida found herself in a long, straight corridor. She remembered Paul's description of this corridor when she first arrived. Calida could almost feel the freedom. Mr. Jackson began to walk faster and Calida changed to suit his pace. They reached the door at the end, side by side. In one swift movement Mr. Jackson whipped out the gold bullet and placed it in the locking mechanism. A dull thud echoed and the door popped ajar.

Calida almost jumped for joy. 'Dallas, here I come', she thought.

"STOP!" The resounding voice made her heart jump up into her throat.

Calida turned slowly feeling Mr. Jackson doing the same. Mr. Cassar stood at the other end of the hallway with five guards behind him, all fully armed. Calida's heart began to beat out of control as the guards moved their guns into an offensive position.

"What is the meaning of this Mr. Cassar?" Mr. Jackson asked, outraged.

"Don't play games with me. I'm on to you Mr. Jackson."

"What the hell are you talking about?" he roared, his chest swelling out.

Mr. Cassar smirked. "You're helping her escape!"

"I am doing no such thing!"

"Then what are you doing?"

Calida's breath got caught in her throat. "I'm removing her to a secure location outside this base. With all the systems malfunctioning it is not safe to contain her in this facility."

"Did you know?" Mr. Cassar paused, "You might just have got away with your plan, if it wasn't for this!" He held up a plain videotape. "Do you know what this is? It is the security tape of your little destructive acts."

Mr. Jackson cursed beside her. "That's a lie", he denied, once last time.

"Come with me quietly Elijah." Mr. Cassar stepped forward and the guards raised their guns.

"RUN", screamed Mr. Jackson.

Calida turned and pushed open the door behind her as the sound of gunfire broke out. She felt Mr. Jackson close behind as she fled through the cabin. Pounding of feet followed behind slowly gain on them. Calida dodged through the lounge room and hit the front door just as the five guards and Mr. Cassar reached the entrance to the cabin. Mr. Jackson pushed her out the front door as the gunfire started again.

She stumbled on the stairs, tripping and hitting the ground painfully, jarring her arm under her body. Calida gagged her cry of pain and pushed herself up again, running on shaky legs across the gravel driveway to the forest area. A quick glance behind showed Mr. Jackson hobbling after her, a hand gripping his left thigh. Suddenly her eyes shifted to the door just in time to see their pursuers taking aim.

Calida lent forward more and began to run faster. In five steps Calida reached the tree line. She dived into the undergrowth, a bullet barely missing her shoulder. Her chest heaving for air, she pressed her body flat against the ground. Calida braved a look through the brush.

Mr. Jackson was shot, laying on the ground about a metre in front of her, looking into her eyes. He smiled stiffly and slowly moved his arm so that it was extended out in front of him. Calida looked to his hand. The envelope was held tight in his fist.

"Take it", he croaked.

Calida shook her head, surprised to feel tears rolling down her cheeks. "Get up! You can make it", she whispered.

This time he shook his head. "No, I can't. I've been hurt bad Calida. You must go now."

Calida looked to his body where he lay sprawled. Blood poured out of the wound in his leg, soaking the gravel. She searched to find the other wound. A dark, glistening patch on his back drew her attention. Sounds from the veranda of the cabin alerted her brain to the continuing danger.

"Quick Calida. Take it, take it NOW!" Mr. Jackson pleaded.

Calida fumbled with the handcuffs and with a lot of wriggling managed to get her hands in front of her. She stilled her breathing before she propelled herself out of cover and into the open. Vaguely she heard the yells of the guards but she remained fully focused on the task. She hit the ground and rolled to a stop beside Mr. Jackson. He released his grip on the envelope and she plucked it out of his hand.

Calida swallowed her fear once again and she began the run back to cover. Bullets whipped past her head as she ran hap-hazardly, clutching her ticket to freedom. Safety loomed up ahead and just as she went to dive a sharp, searing pain split her side. Instead of the graceful dive she had planned, she fell and began to roll sideways into the foliage. Calida continued to roll until her body slammed into a thick tree trunk in her path. The wind was knocked from her lungs and she fought to find air.

A moan escaped her lips and tears of pain trickled from her eyes. Why was this happening to her? Why couldn't she have escaped like planned? It was then that Calida remembered an important saying, 'nothing ever goes to plan.'

"Calida! Where are you Calida?" Mr. Cassar mocked. "Come out, come out, where ever you are!"

She gritted her teeth and using the tree as support pulled herself into a crouching position. Carefully she lifted her shirt. Just above her hip was a shallow bullet graze. Calida breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't as bad as she had thought.

From her squatted position she surveyed her situation. The IGI Headquarters were directly behind her and she could hear Mr. Cassar and the guards making their way towards her. Keeping a low profile Calida moved off carefully leaving behind the heartbreak, heading towards freedom.

"Good bye Dad."
After an hours walk through the bush land Calida came across a dirt road going both left and right. She made a guess and began to follow the road to the right. Calida walked for hours, occasionally talking with Jacinta but mainly she spent the time thinking.

She thought about Dallas and the gang, wondering what they would be up to. If they'd found a new hideout? How he was coping? Then she thought about her father. It seemed unreal but Calida was sure that he was no longer walking this earth. If the bullet hadn't killed him, Mr. Cassar would've. She sighed. Now she really was alone in the world- family wise.

Calida stumbled on a bump in the road, her feet barely leaving the ground. Her energy was being leached out of her body with every step. She was hungry and thirsty and tired. More than anything, Calida just wanted to curl up on the side of the road and sleep. However, considering all that she had been through to stay alive, she wasn't about to roll over and die yet.

Calida, look! Jacinta's voice resounded in her head. Look up ahead!

Calida did as she was told and felt renewed strength flow past into her muscles. About 50km ahead was a town, the sign told her. She smiled.

"We're going to make it Jacinta. We're going to make it!"