They made use of Simon’s hospitality for three weeks after that. Every morning he was up before they were and making breakfast. Then he’d leave to patrol the area around his home, making sure that no one from Invergence was on their scent. According to Simon, Invergence had a legion of drones that could think independently, and that was what worried him most. People were relatively easy to deal with. They followed rules, but the drones wouldn’t care about trespassing and had much more efficient technologies like facial recognition. If even one of them were to catch a glimpse of Kat or Sergio’s face, it would instantly report back to Invergence, and they’d be on the run again.
Sergio’s leg was healing nicely. In just a few weeks, the wound began closing up. It wasn’t long before he could put some minor pressure on his leg, though he still used a pair of old crutches Simon had given him. Simon estimated that within another month or so, Sergio would be able to walk normally, though he would likely have a limp for far longer.
The time spent with Simon was a much-needed relief for Kat and Sergio. Despite Simon’s frequent requests to baptise her baby girl, and Sergio’s reluctant agreement, Kat still loved her time with the man. She always declined the offers of baptism. She didn’t really see the point. Simon always brought it up before going to church on Sunday mornings, but he was always cheerful about it. He looked after them. He seemed almost eager for the company. Kat never asked, but she suspected that Simon had lost family in his earlier years. But he never said a word about this, so she didn’t push.
After beginning their fourth week of staying with Simon, he came in one morning with a frown on his face. That alone was unusual and Kat instantly worried. Sergio, who was sitting at the breakfast table also noticed and stood up on his good leg.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I think the drones might have found us, they’re probing my property and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Kat sighed. She knew that their time here was too wonderful to last. She didn’t want to leave.
Sergio looked equally disappointed. Odd that they would feel bad about leaving, not because of the danger, but because they had grown to love Simon in only a few short weeks. The thought of leaving was not pleasant.
And yet, they had planned for this. They knew Invergence would likely come eventually, no matter where they stayed.
“How much time do we have?” asked Sergio.
“I’d say no more than five…” Simon broke off. All three of them heard it: a high-pitched hum that sounded a lot like a large wasp.
Simon cursed and hurried into his room. He emerged with two shotguns. He handed one to Kat. “You’re better with this than your husband. Keep it. Go out the side door and take my truck. I’ve already prepped it with some provisions. Take it and leave; I’ll hold off the drones.”
Kat didn’t know what to say. Hesitantly she took the shotgun. She had practiced a few times with Simon, but never thought that she’d actually have a chance to use it. She looked back at Simon, not knowing how to thank him, not just for the gun, but for the car, the provisions, and the selfless care that he had shown them over the last few weeks. But Simon was already out the front door, his shotgun cocked.
Sergio reacted first, “I’ll get Alice.”
Kat nodded, she would go out the side-door to make sure the coast was clear. The buzzing had grown louder and seemed to be circling the house. Adrenaline started to kick in and her breathing grew more intense. Cautiously, she opened the side door and slid the gun through the opening. She didn’t see anything.
Suddenly, the drone was there, the buzzing loud as ever as it moved through its patrol of the house. On the one hand, it looked like an ordinary drone, with two small propellers on either side. But it’s body looked predatory, with large gun mounts, and a large red eye in the center of its chest, while menacing tendril-arms hung below its body. Rays of light emerged on all sides, scanning. Its red eye turned towards the crack in the door that Kat had opened.
Kat didn’t think. She fired.
The blast knocked the drone back, but it was still functioning. She fired again, and still only made a small dent. Sergio was behind her now, and the gunshot had upset Alice who was crying in Sergio’s arms. Kat was scared. She had to pause to load the shotgun, and the drone new exactly where they were now. It drifted towards her, sparks emerging from the areas where Kat’s shot had hit.
Suddenly, another shot rang out. It threw the drone to the side. This third shot seemed to be too much for the drone, for it fell to the ground. Then Simon was there. He ran to the side of the drone, and shot it point blank. It’s red eye dimmed.
“Go!” he yelled at them, “They are undoubtedly coming now.”
“What about you?” Kat asked.
“I have an older vehicle I can use to get away, but you have to go now!”
They didn’t stop to ask anything more. Kat placed the shotgun behind the seats in the truck, helped Sergio and Alice into the passenger side, and circled around to the driver’s seat. A few moments later and they had left the scene. They hurried down the dirt driveway, expecting at any moment to see more drones or members of Invergence confronting them on their way out. But they reached the main street in time. Soon they made it to Route 40 and continued on their way west.
“Do you think Simon will be okay,” Kat asked Sergio.
“I’m sure he will be fine,” Sergio replied, “He planned for today.”
Kat nodded. It was no use to worry at this point. She only hoped that they would have a chance to meet Simon again someday. He was the nicest person she had met, and he also understood their peril. She could only hope that other members of Argo Force, scattered through the world, were as accommodating.
They continued on Route 40 for several hours. Eventually passing through into Arkansaw. By then, the sun was starting to set, but they decided not to stop at a hotel now, not with Invergence looking for them. So they found a secluded parking lot, parked in the corner, and did their best to sleep.