Jon: For the greater good

Nellie, Katrina, and I ran for several minutes -- minutes that seemed to drag on forever. The only sounds we could hear were the crushing of the brush beneath our feet and our labored panting. Nellie stopped and rested her hand against a tree. She slouched toward the tree, barely holding herself up.

"I can't go anymore," she said, the words coming out only as a whisper. I looked back from where we had come and nodded, deciding that we had gone far enough. I focused on the nearby sounds, attempting to control my breathing. I didn't hear anything that led me to believe that we had been followed.

"I think we're safe," I said, turning my gaze back to Nellie and Katrina. "Are you all right?" I asked, placing my hand on Nellie's shoulder.

After a few deep breaths, she replied with mostly a straight face, "Never better. Can we do it again?"

Katrina frowned, but I laughed. "Good," I said, continuing to laugh. "Keep that sense of humor no matter how bad things get."

Choosing to ignore the comic routine Nellie was practicing, Katrina asked, "What are we going to do now?"

"Well," I stated, all signs of laughter gone from my face, "it is obvious we have a traitor among us." At their startled looks, I added, "It's obviously none of us, if you were even contemplating the thought." I looked down at the ground for a moment to collect my thoughts. "However, some of our sympathizers from Handrin ..."

"What about the other women and children?" Katrina interrupted. "Are they in trouble?"

"I knew I didn't like the looks of that Tim fellow," Nellie said, both of her fists clenched tight.

"It seems we're all on the same page," I said, patting both girls each on a shoulder. "Yes, I believe Tim might have been up to no good. Is he the only one? I don't know, but we need to go after those other girls." After getting nudged from Katrina, I added, "Women. We need to help the women and children."

"How do we know which way they were taken?" Nellie asked the question, but I could tell that Katrina wanted to ask the same thing or something similar. Their expressions were almost identical. It was obvious that this whole situation had gotten to them, perhaps beginning to persuade them that the spy business wasn't as easy as their aspirations had led them to believe.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," I stated, raising both of my palms toward them, gesturing a slower pace. "There is actually something we must do first, something for the greater good, something for Ibera." At their raised eyebrows, I continued, "We need to get word to the Iberan army that a new weapon might be coming their way."

"How are earth are we suppose to do that?" Katrina asked the question this time, and although I don't think Nellie had been thinking anything similar, her expression changed, indicating that she liked Katrina's question.

"The same way our friends in court communicated with me," I answered. "With a letter sent by carrier pigeon." Although my answer seemed perfectly adequate to me, Katrina laughed.

"And where are you going to find a pigeon out here?" she asked, gesturing wide, indicating the forest.

I frowned slightly and spoke in a low tone. "I told no one where my pigeons are kept. That is our lifeline, our means of communicating with all of my contacts, including the army regiment that is led by Sir Frances."

"Eliza's father?" Nellie asked, her mouth wide open in surprise. I answered with a nod. Soon, though, my expression went negative.

"We have a problem, though," I told them, my eyebrows furrowed. "They probably won't believe us."

"Why not?" Nellie asked.

"Because our masquerade is secret even to them. Remember?" I paused. "How would even our best spies know that the enemy is in the process of creating a new weapon? We have never been able to insert spies so deeply into Handrin."

"So, our masquerade has been successful?" Katrina asked the question, but her self-satisfied look indicated that she already had an answer for herself.

"Sure," I replied. "It has also been dangerous, but successful? Yes."

"What other way can we convince them short of telling them the whole story?" Nellie asked.

"I don't think there is another way," I replied. "And spilling our guts isn't an option at the moment."

I hadn't told either one of them about the rest of the letter from our friends in court. I had no idea what other trouble Alexandra and Eliza were getting themselves into. There was another individual in the equation, and all I knew for sure was that Alexandra was being watched and followed. They both were, probably. In any case, exposing them to more danger seemed out of the question.

"But we must try," I continued, a certain determination in my voice. "If the message just gets them to be a little more watchful, that'll be better than nothing. I just hope that weapon isn't ready to be deployed."

The End

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