When they roused Rose, she wouldn't wake. When they stood outside her room and she could smell their coffee and hear mention of her in their friendly chatter, she kept the blankets tight over her head. Even when they threw in the Beags to her warm, nothing but the fullest bladder seemed capable of getting her out of bed.
Then there was a silence.
It made her look around.
She didn't know where she was. Whoever was playing caretaker had overdone it on the blankets and most had been kicked to the base. They'd changed her clothes, too, to a T-shirt and sweats and no underwear which really creeped her out, even if it'd been Quinn, but she must've been exhausted to sleep through it and in socks no less! Normally they constricted her tootsies too much to be comfortable. She stroked Beagsley's ears and he turned to look at her, blinking, but had little joy left in his doggy heart. She felt the same. Her head was so foggy and when she thought about getting up and out of bed, she let that thought go and lay back down.
Then the door opened and a woman in a Batman t-shirt with her hair covered jumped into bed, too, and before Rosie could say anything, the woman pinned her hand to Rose's mouth. "You need to listen to me." She seemed more scared than Rose.
When she pulled her hand away, she put a finger to her lips and Rose nodded.
Using a notepad, the woman drew a rough map of the complex. A research center. Her name was Marwa. She explained as she labeled the exit and the landmark rooms and where they were now. With enough time, the map might've been a masterpiece, but in a hurry, it was passable. "There are soldiers here that want you and your dog. Your friends have already escaped, but you need to sneak through here. There are at least two guards but it's the only way out. Don't let them take your dog."
"I won't," Rosie finally managed to say.
"They think I'm still on their team but now that I know what they're doing with anyone outside the Hush.Ca Organization..." Marwa trailed off. "Wait till you hear a door down the hall close. That's the signal to go. Be quiet and be quick, and please, be safe."
Marwa slowly closed the door behind her so as not to make a noise and Rose listened to the rhythm of her footsteps. Too slow. And suddenly too many. And there were voices.
"They just radioed from the holding room," a man said. "We've got reports of a woman in the group unaccounted for."
"You have all the ones I know about," Marwa replied. "But maybe Lenka brought in another? Don't know."
Quinn was dead.
Right in front of Roger and Damion.
She'd been sitting there telling Damion to shut up and that no amount of logic or reasoning would save them from this people so they just had to shut up when Roger made a break for it, and he got all the way down the hall, to a metal door. He pulled the handle. Locked. He kicked it. The two soldiers striding toward him. Their footsteps echoed through the hall but went quiet with every hard kick Roger gave to the door. He had to be close, he thought, when they arrived behind him. Until they touched him, he had a chance. Until they grabbed him, maybe he could get this open, or weakened, and then when he got another chance, he could bust it down.
They never grabbed him.
The soldiers just let him kick until his breathing was heavy and his spirit abandoned.
He walked back on his own.
The woman in charge said, "This place is locked down. We're bringing your other friend over before we decide what to do with you all." The soldiers all called her Gunney.
"She nearly froze to death. At least bring a blanket with her."
The Gunney's professional shell cracked and through it, the group saw astonishment. "She?"
"Shut up, Damion!" Quinn screamed.
As the Gunney was on the radio, the soldiers took Quinn, who'd done nothing. Damion had been a constant whine. Roger had run. And Quinn had sat there, planning, and so they took her, and she thought if she didn't resist, she'd be okay. She was wrong.
The soldier talking to Marwa had orders to search every room, again, and Marwa had no more authority here. If the soldiers had missed one of their targets, it was because someone, Marwa, had falsely reported a few rooms empty.
The footsteps in the hall, they were slower than Marwa's, but now too fast. They were coming right for Rosie.
Her covers were inadequate to hide her. If she submitted, perhaps she'd be fine, but why would Marwa risk anything if that were the case? She hid against the wall next to the door. The soldier would come in and in that second, she'd do something. She wasn't sure what but she had to do something.
He opened the door and Rosie leapt too soon.
She tackled his arm, and had a good hold of it, but could do nothing. He was trained. He squeezed her between his arms so every limb was secure. Even her kicking feet did nothing. He swayed with her as she wriggled until soon, his tight arms crushed the air from her, and her eyes closed. Her mind went dark.
And he dropped her.
The floor was hard on her knees but the pain woke her from the daze. She looked around for what had saved her. The man's face was disfigured, a swollen purple mess, the mouth agape in terror or pain.
On the bed, standing on all four legs now, was Beagsley.
Whatever had happened didn't matter. The commotion would draw others in and Rosie needed to go, though she didn't want to. She grabbed the hand-drawn map and peeked out the door. It was clear. As she reached the end of her hall, the one Marwa had gone down had the boot steps of first responders, and Rosie hurried before they searched her way.
Beagsley was a perfect doll in her arms.
Even last night, when they'd been freezing, after Quinn handed him off, Beagsley had kicked a little. Shivered. Adjusted in her arms to get his snout as nestled into her armpits as possible, for the warmth, not the smell.
But now, he was lifeless. Truly still.
That, with earlier, scared her more than a little.
She shook the fear away. It wouldn't be right to abandon a little boyo after struggling so much together. If they survived, it'd be together. It'd be as much because of him as it was because of her.
Soldiers down the hall pulled her out of her thoughts.
She ducked into a room with an open door and waited, but they stood, chit-chatting. She had a plan. Unbuckling Beagsley's collar, she could throw it into a room further down the hall to lure them then sneak past. All she had on her feet were socks. She'd be so silent.
She threw it.
The soldiers walked past.
They tentatively looked into the room as Rosie watched from behind the door, looking between hinges.
They were inside, threatening that they knew someone was in there and to come out.
She made her move.
And her hip bumped against the door. The door creaked as it swung into the wall, a quiet thump against the door stop to be sure, but still too loud to maintain stealth. Her clumsiness had doomed them.
The men turned.
"You know why you're hunting me," she said. Her eyes were locked on theirs. They were so much bigger and yet she felt her spirit rise above. Her threat: "One of you is already dead. Get out your radio and ask how agonizingly slow it was. Then ask yourselves if you ever want to see home again."
She waited for their decision, then took a step back, and another, and turned, and no one stopped her. She walked right out the swinging door.
Then bolted because she knew they'd be on the radio soon enough and every soldier in this place with whatever equipment they'd prepared for that thing, for Beagsley, would flood down the mountain till they found her and whether she surrendered or not, fate awaited her.
Out the exit, she found that little cave they'd collapsed in. If they'd gone just another twenty steps, they might've found the front door.
The forest in the day shimmered. Snow loosened by the melting sun fell from the branch and kicked up powder and the branch hung, sodden and limp, like it might never perk back up. And though the forest looked so different out in the light, an experience like last night was so beaten into her body that her legs just moved. They knew where to go and she let them lead.
When she heard a sound.
They were here. Already? She wasn't far at all.
"Shouldn't you be wearing a coat, Rose?" Colby came out from behind a tree, like he'd been hiding, too. "It's been a helluva night."
Rosie threw her head back and laughed, which hurt. Her lungs felt frozen. And Colby came up to hug her but she yelled, "Stop!"
She set Beagsley down, then she felt comfortably going to Colby, leading him several more yards, and then finally, hugging him.
"Did anyone else make it?" he asked.
"No," she said, knowing Marwa had lied. She could put together what she'd heard in the halls. "It's just us, but we'll be okay."
She wondered how he'd survived. What he'd seen. The relief of it all made him cry streams. He was getting choked up just letting it out and she knew whatever she'd been through, he'd have his own half of the story.
"It's okay," she whispered. "Cry as much as you need to."
His tears hit her cheek and he was shaking, really coughing trying to get through it all. She patted his back. It felt wrong.
She opened her eyes.
That soldier from earlier--she looked around for Beagsley, still a ways on, sitting motionless, and she turned back to her friend who had just fallen to the ground, swollen, purple, and dying.
A wasp came at her and she ducked, flailing her hands, but as it landed on her, it found an opening in her skin and burrowed inside. Back to where it came from.
There wasn't anything she could do now for Colby. Or for Quinn, Roger, Damion. Not even for Marwa probably. But for whoever else was out there, whether she knew them or not, there was something she had to do.
Back at the cave, where the front door was, she pounded on it. "Get whatever you need to contain me. I'm giving myself up. I don't want anyone else to get hurt." She was holding Beagsley.