“What’s up with this traffic?” Sam repeated as she rested her feet on the dashboard. “We haven’t moved for ages.”
Ten minutes, Rob thought. Eight since he turned the engine off.
He glanced into the rear-view mirror. Sam’s coat lay on the back seat, hiding the Box. The woman in the car behind was on her mobile, gesticulating. And further back, somewhere, were the Hounds.
“Think they’re still in their cars?” Sam asked. “They could reach us in no time on foot.”
“Too risky. Too many witnesses. Probably some have-a-go hero would try to stop them.”
Sam snorted. “They’d die, just like Chris.” In his mind, Rob saw his colleague’s broken body and glassy eyes. “And what do they care about witnesses? You think the police can get through this jam? The Hounds would be long gone by then. Probably…” she looked around, then pointed to the embankment, “probably up there, over the bridge. They’d be miles away before help arrived.”
“We could always trigger the Box.”
“Seriously? You know how powerful that thing is. Besides, we don’t have the code.”
“No.” And he bit his lower lip, thinking of the app Jeff had installed on Rob’s phone, the one he’d agreed to use only as a last resort.
Sam pulled out her phone, started swiping over a map. “If we could just get…here.” She pointed to the next turning, five miles away.
Not a chance. There was the farm track, only a couple of miles on, but Rob didn’t want to go down there again. Not after last time.
“We’ll just have to sit it out,” he said. Sam huffed, and gazed out of the window.
“Maybe we can use the bridge.”
It was Rob’s turn to laugh. “If this thing had four-wheel drive. But you said a saloon would be more inconspicuous.”
She tutted, and he knew that was the wrong thing to say. But it had been her decision, along with the timing of the whole operation. If they’d gone for a dawn raid, like he’d suggested, they would have missed this traffic by hours. They’d be back at base by now, and Weaver would have the Box secured.
But the bridge gave him an idea. He pulled up a map on his own phone, ignored the red dot triggered by the tracker Sam didn’t know about, and followed the single-track road.
He swallowed, and rubbed his leg. It felt sore just thinking of that farm. For a second, the nightmare rose again—the rusted axe, the stench of death, the feeling of utter despair.
The farm. The self-styled ‘Survivors’, determined prove their beliefs even if others died. And they wanted the Box, wanted to reverse-engineer it, build bigger versions. Where the Hounds aimed for specific targets, the Survivors wanted to spread chaos and destruction.
Rob didn’t like violence, but sometimes it was the lesser of two evils.
He nodded to the embankment. “But we don’t need to drive.”
Sam frowned. “You want us to walk?”
“Not both of us.” He rubbed his leg for emphasis, then leaned over, ran a finger over her map. “But follow the road, you get to this farm. They’re bound to have vehicles. I stay here as a decoy, you take the Box back to Weaver.”
He grinned, but she frowned again, glancing behind them. “You want me to go out there?”
“And at least you won’t be stuck in this traffic.”
“But what if the Hounds follow?”
He glanced in the mirror. There was a lorry to one side, and a second one behind the woman’s car. “They won’t see you leave the car. There’s bushes on the embankment—perfect cover. And if they do follow, I’ll spot them.”
Not that he could do anything to stop them. But he didn’t add that.
She bit her lower lip, then nodded before reaching for her coat. The Box was small enough to slip into a pocket. Small, yet incredibly powerful.
“Call me when you reach the farm,” he said.
She nodded, then opened the door. Car fumes and cold air rushed in, and he was thankful when she slammed the door. The woman in the car behind stared, then waved her arms, shouting words that only she could hear. But already Sam was over by the verge, starting up the embankment.
She didn’t look back, not even when she reached the bridge. Soon, she was gone from his sight.
Rob watched her marker moving over the map. She was going fast, possibly running. Quick calculation—she might reach the farm in half an hour.
He smiled, wondering how the Survivors would react knowing the Box was approaching. But they’d never know. Even if they recognised Sam, even if they took the thing from her dead body, it would be too late.
From this distance, he’d hear the explosion, probably feel the blast. Car windows would be broken, and there might be some minor injuries. Maybe a dog walker or rambler would be caught in the blast, but that was a small price to pay.
The Survivors would cease to be, and the Hounds would never get their hands back on the Box.
Rob would have a word with Jeff, get the app removed from his own phone and then convince the guy that he’d put it on Sam’s phone too. When Rob gave his report to Weaver, he could say he’d told Sam all about the Survivors, and she’d come up with this crazy scheme. He’d tried to stop her, but she was insistent, said it was the only way to stop the Box falling into the wrong hands.
She’d be a hero, giving her life for others. A martyr and an inspiration.
Even if she knew nothing about it.
The End Of The World
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