The listening post stood amongst a small copse of trees.
It was festooned with flags – some had been there for a long time, others had appeared for Shopmas.
The trees were covered in lights that twinkled like the stars.
If it was listening, no one knew. Which was a shame. Because out at the edge of our stars a fleet of ships dropped out of light speed.
Something was coming. And now it was close.
Closer were two children. One, the taller, was lagging behind – as if running was hard.
Behind them twitched a man with a manic grin and a serrated blade.
“He’s still there, Aar.”
“Sa…save your,” Aaron was breathing hard. “Your breath.” He knew he had to save his brother, but he didn’t know how long he could go on for. If he could stop the man with the knife. If his brother could escape.
“Quick, Aaron. Up here.”
Aaron looked up. Damien was climbing the tower.
Where are the little bastards? They came through here. How can he not see them? The whole fucking place was lit up like a Shopmas fucking window.
Marino peered through the trees until he got to the post.
Jody came home to a disaster zone. Broken windows, pans over the floor.
She punched her son’s number.
They climbed silently, watching him twitch through the trees. He couldn’t see them. They didn’t need to climb so high. All they had to do is keep quiet, wait until he passed, and they could slip back down to their mum.
Damien’s phone rang.
Jody called Westerfield. “Marino’s after my kids. He’s after them. You have to trace this phone. I’m … shit, I don’t even have an idea where they could be.”
“Jody. Listen. I can track you. Pick a direction, head after them. I’ll meet you along the way.”
Aaron climbed as fast as he could. Stretching up hurt, pulling himself up hurt more – but keeping Damien on the structure was killi- was hurting a lot too.
He looked down. The man with the knife was getting closer. He looked up. There wasn’t many places they could go.
Jody hit the tree line in time to see Damien reach a walkway. He reached down and pulled his older brother up to join him.
Her eyes flicked down, Marino was closing.
She ran into the trees.
Aaron lead Damien to the end of the walkway. It wasn’t the best idea. There was nowhere to go from there.
“End of the line, boys. You’ve nowhere else to go. Time to meet the knife.”
The man giggled, waving the knife in front of him.
Aaron looked about, desperate for an escape. There had to be somewhere to go.
“It doesn’t matter. Everyone will die soon. I’ve been so very naughty. They’re going to have to come.”
“Don’t listen to him, Damien. Look. Here, hold round my neck, and hold really tight.”
Damien did as he was told, clambering up his older brother. Aaron’s ribs screamed in protest, but he kept it in. He looked over his shoulder at the knife, and ran.
Jody watched in horror as her son’s leapt out, off of the walkway.
With his arms outstretched, he reached for one of the flag ropes, but the weight of this brother was too much, he was falling too fast.
His fingers felt the rope, closed round it, and felt the skin burn from his hands as he slid along it.
The rope moved. Aaron looked up, expecting to see the man above them, but the position of the rope had changed.
“Damien, climb onto the rope. You’ll be safer on the rope.”
Damien shifted his weight, climbing over his brother.
The rope shifted again. No. Not the rope. The post itself. Their weight was causing it to swing.
Marino wasn’t going to let a small matter of a rope stop him getting his prey. He leapt after the kids, grabbing the rope at a much higher position.
The arm of the listening post groaned, and shifted position, locking into place.
Jody aimed her pistol, shook her hair out of her eyes and fired.
Across the world, listening posts shuddered into life, their arms moving into the same position.
Marino hit the ground.
The last thing he saw was a set of lights flick from white to red.