"Jordan! Jordan, this way." A child of about eight clambered over a pile of rocks and pointed down into a valley. At one end of the valley was a tall waterfall jutting out from craggy rock. A long windy river travelled down the whole valley, flanked by sharp rock and course shrubbery. The river was loud and choppy near the waterfall, but lazy and picturesque at the far end where the children now stood.
Looking out towards the waterfall were five children. The youngest was a small boy of eight being held back from falling by an older girl with one hand holding tightly onto his belt. The two older boys were holding a stretcher carrying a frail girl who smiled weakly at the sight. The two boys kept giving the injured girl looks of panic, even more so when they saw the sharp descent into the valley.
"That's the way isn't it Jordan? Through the waterfall right? That's what you said wasn't it?" The youngest boy jumped and pointed in excitement. He slipped and was quickly pulled back by the girl.
"Don't do that!" She scolded before pulling him into a hug.
"I'm sorry Maxie." The child buried his head in her blonde wavy hair obviously shaken by his near-miss His dark curly hair and dark complexion showed he wasn't related to the fair blonde girl but the way she held him also showed they were as close as family could get.
Once recovered he ran and took the sick girl's hand.
"It's the waterfall Jordan. You are right." Jordan smiled weakly and nodded.
"Yes my little monkey. It's the waterfall." He giggled in delight, "But Booby, you must be more careful. Don't scare us like that. Not when we are so close." She gingerly patted his head and regretted it. She hugged her ribcage revealing the injury that had made her immobile.
"Jordan are you okay." The boys set her down and the smaller one knealy by her side.
"Is it spreading?" He began to pull at the bandages around her chest but she wiggled away from him only causing herself more pain. The boy panicked reaching for her.
"I'm fine you old fusspot. I just moved too fast. I'll be fine." The boy still looked doubtful so she took his face in her hands.
"Emmett. I promise you I'm fine. Just a little tender still." he nodded and began to figure a way down.
"How's it looking Em? Will we be able to get down? Jordan asked.
"I don't know boss. It's steep. I don't think the rope will be much help. We should just go without. Maybe if Karl carried you. Piggyback or something. Strap the stretcher onto Maxie, and I'll carry Bobby and the same way Carlos carries you." her shrugged. It wasn't his best idea. Emmett was filled with ideas, some smart, some not so smart.
"We'll do it then." She sat up very slowly.
"It'll be dangerous," He warned
"It's the only way." Jordan Stretched out her arms and Carlos crouched down to pick her up. She was so slight Carlos had no difficulty picking her up as she clung to him.
Wordlessly Emmett strapped the stretcher to Maxie and let Bobby climb onto his back.
"I'll go first." Maxie got onto her stomach and backwards crawled to the edge. She worked herself slowly over the edge and felt for a footing.
"Be careful Maxie." Bobby chirped from over Emmett's shpulder.
"Don't worry Bub. I'll see you soon." She gave him a big smile and he poked his tongue out in return.
With one hand still resting on the cliff top she shouted out to them.
"There are some footholds. It should be okay. I'm gonna keep going. I'll give you all a shout when I'm down."
For ten tense minutes they waited. They listened to the small crumble of rocks and faint cursing at difficult patches. Bobby giggled whenever she swore.
"I'm down!" She shouted up to them as her voice echoed through the valley. The sound of her voice was a relief to the other four children.
"I can see the foothold real good from here. Carlos and Jordan should go next. It'll be hardest for them.
Silently Carlos followed Maxie's movements as he wiggled over the edge. Jordan kept her hands on his shoulders. Her knuckles were going white as she held tight and her head was pressed to his back.
"See you soon Emmett." Jordan saluted as they disappeared over the edge.
With Maxie's help the trip down for the pair was easier than her own trip had been. She pointed out the best footholds and any jutting rock that could have hit Jordan.
"A little bit to your left Carlos. There is a big ledge. Yeah that's right. It's easy going for a bit now."
Once they landed safely and Jordan was tucked up in the stretcher the boys lowered down the packs then went down themselves.
Once everyone was down they surveyed their surroundings. They were on the left side of the river and could see a thin path leading up towards the waterfall; their ultimate goal.
"The journey won't be too far. A day at most." Emmett tried to judge the distance.
"We should rest here then. There's no telling if there will be another spot we can rest if it gets dark. I know it's early but not early enough." The children all listened to Jordan and nodded. They scattered and began to collect things for camp. Maxie and Bobby collected firewood. Carlos went to the river and filled all their bottles after testing it first with one of the few pieces of technology the children had. Emmett constructed a make-shift cover from the blankets and extendable poles they always carried with them. While it didn't look like rain, the sun in some places was scorching and the gentle skinned ones burned easily. Too easily to live in this part of the world. Luckily it had been overcast for the last few days but they weren't going to take any chances. Not when they were so close.
When Carlos came back with water Emmett gently drip fed the cool liquid into Jordan's mouth like she was a new born baby. There was a look of protest on Jorand's face who hated getting treated like a baby but there was little she could do about it.
"Easy now Jordan. One more sip. There you go." He coaxed more water down her throat.
Maxie and Bobby quickly built up a campfire. Or rather Maxie built the fire and Bobby passed her sticks. He was too little to handle fire. It crackled and popped as the dry wood caught fire. Bobby handed another stick to Maxie, who took one look at it and tutted.
"Bobby we can't use this piece. Tell me why." To prove her point she snapped it in half revealing a sappy inside.
"It's still green Maxie. I'm sorry." He poked one sappy end."
"And why is that a problem?" Maxie continued to question him, teach him, make him learn from his mistakes.
"It would make smoke and give away our location. We are trying to stay hidden. It would defeat the point of coming here." Bobby repeated this is bored voice. He had been forced to learn that over and over again.
"Good boy." Maxie ruffled his hair and gave him a bear hug. He tried to fight it but he gave up.
"Everything's alright squirt."
"I know that!" he mumbled and grumbled before pulling out of the hug.
With a fire going, and water boiling everyone gathered around Jordan who was propped up against a tree. She exchanged smiles with them, and Bobby blew her slobbery air kisses. She took hands with Carlos and Bobby who were closest to her, and they all grabbed each other hands.
"We are so close. I can almost taste it." Everyone nodded and listened.
"We have been tricked, lied to, battered, injured and changed. But none of that is going to stop us. We all heard Emmett. One more day. Just one more day." She hissed in pain as she turned onto her side. Emmett rushed to her side and lowered her back onto the mat.
"I've told you not to move a hundred times. You'll only hurt yourself more and you are not dying. Not when we are so close." He scolded her, but only half-heartedly.
"I wasn't planning on it Em." She teased but lay skill at his command.
"We can rest today. Up early tomorrow and be at Safety by nightfall." Her promises put a smile on everyone's faces, except for Emmett. He just regarded Jordan with worry.
Once everyone had departed he crouched low to Jordan.
"It's not getting better. I think it's spreading, isn't it?" He tried to peak at her chest under the bandages but she swatted him away.
"Shoo. A girl has to have some privacy."
You have under clothes on." He complained but a blush still spread on his cheeks.
"We can get the doctors at Safety to look at it. You don't know how to fix it, but they might."
"Pfft. I know more than any doctor." His voice went softer. "It's the might I'm worried about." He gave her one more look before going to help Maxie with lunch. Like most of their food, it was soup mix with water and dried vegetables. Simmered for 20 minutes and then they were all served thick soup, the consistency of porridge.
"Blah!" Bobby set his bowl down in a huff.
"It's getting worse everyday. What happened to all the nice soup?" He whined to Maxie who slapped the back of his head.
"Stop complaining. We ate all the good food first. Now alls that left is the bland yuck food. We explained that weeks ago." She forced the bowl back into his hand.
"Eat, or you will go hungry." She ordered before looking down at her own plate in disgusted.
"One more day. Just one more day." She mumbled to herself before gulping down the lumpy mixture.