Somehow she found her voice. “Arner, someone just went down that way. I think it was human,” she whispered.
Her breathy voice broke the spell the team had been under. Arner’s voice was a welcome rumble in her earpiece. “Both teams continue recon as planned. Carli and Leo are with me. We will meet in twenty minutes at the greenhouse near the west gate.”
Like wraiths, the others drifted away, heading for the middle of town once more. Putting their backs to their comrades, Carli led Arner and Leo towards where she’d seen the figure move. The shadow had been furtive and small; assuring her it was a fellow person. Still, her heart thumped thunderous and fast as she crept closer to where she’d sighted it. As they neared the end of the building, a small hand came from a huddled mass next to the corner. She blew out a pent-up breath when she saw it was a young boy. A good look at his face was impossible because, like them, he also wore night vision goggles.
The scrawny kid, looking no older than nine or ten years old, put his finger to his lips. Carli nodded. He signaled them to follow him. Turning away, he padded down the darkened streets and alleys. Keeping to the shadows, Carli, Leo, and Arner flitted like spirits after the child.
They followed him through a maze of darkened streets, watching where he hugged the buildings and doing the same. At last he slipped into the shadowy realm of a crumbling pawn shop. The Freetowners were inside in an instant. Carli saw the child open a wall of shelves. She was impressed with the hiding spot. She never would have known a room was there.
They crowded into the secret room with the boy, and he shut the door behind them. Hearing the click of it closing helped Carli relax a little. She and the two men peeled off their headsets, so they wouldn’t confuse the reconnoitering team with conversation.
If she discounted his high, piping voice, the kid was every bit as commanding as Arner. “Don’t ever follow anyone else around here like you did me. Some are leading the monsters to the Gulch’s hiding places where people went when the attack started. They’d turn you over in an instant to those freaks. I think they’ve gone traitor to save themselves from getting eaten.”
Carli blew out a breath. “It never fails. The Save-My-Own-Ass Brigade marches on.”