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Chapter 10

     "What do we do?" Isabella asked, looking at Leif.  Leif was still looking at the cuts and burns over Devan's body.
     "We have to get him out of here,” he decided. “She's right. He is dying. We can't leave him while we think up a plan. We'll take him to an inn and then plan."
     "Take me with you," Liesl begged. "Please. My name is Liesl. I have taken care of him. He is my only friend here. I have nothing to live for if you take him."
     Leif knew he was in a tough spot. He knew nothing about her. For all he knew she would change her mind when the going got tough.
     "The goon squads may follow us," he told her.
     "I don't care," she replied. "I would rather die with you than stay here and die a slow death."
     "If they catch you with us, they might torture you just for spite." Leif could tell she hadn’t thought of that possibility.
     After a moment of contemplation, Liesl said, "I am willing to take that chance."
     Leif looked her in the eyes. He saw a glimmer of hope. He turned to Isabella and Kamiko.
     "What do you think?"
     Both of them said “yes” instantly.
     "‘Yes’ it is," he replied, turning back to Liesl. "Go pack what you can without raising suspicion. Act normal. Don't rush. Don't talk to anyone if you can help it. We'll wait here for you."
     Liesl ran off. "Slow down!" Leif called after her.
     "We'll find a room and decide what to do,” Leif said. “It won't be long before they discover they’re missing. They might link that to the girl we bribed. They might link those to when the Source had to flow to us at that inn. We could soon be the objects of a massive manhunt."
     They tried to look inconspicuous while they waited for Liesl. Devan just sat, too weak to talk. The others let him rest. While they waited, Isabella was looking at Leif and thinking how, lately, he was the Leif she had fallen in love with. He was leading with compassion. He had sought her and Kamiko’s opinion on whether to let Liesl come with them. She wondered what life would be like when and if they got back to their normal routine as agents. 
     When Liesl returned, they waited until the fewest number of people were around.
     "You girls go on ahead. I'll bring Devan. Head for the road and stop at the first inn you come to," Leif said.
     He had to hold Devan up while they walked. Devan now was happy to go with them, especially since Liesl was coming. Just being with his friends seemed to bring him life. Leif found the girls and paid for rooms, one for them and one for him and Devan.
     "My friend was in an accident," he told the innkeeper. "He's getting better."
     "He doesn't look too good to me," the innkeeper replied. "He better not die in my inn."
     Leif laid Devan on the bed. He tried to make him as comfortable as possible. The girls joined them.
     "After giving it some thought, I don't think the goons will connect the dots and come looking for us yet. I'm pretty sure employees go missing all the time."
     "That's right," Liesl confirmed.
     "So we have some time to get as far back home as possible," Leif continued. "We will travel as far as Devan can go each day. We'll set out in the morning."
     Isabella and Kamiko didn't have a better plan. Devan was a little stronger the next morning when they set out, but before long he slowed down. Eventually Leif had to hold him up while they shuffled along. The other travelers on the road barely gave them a glance. On the following days, they made slow but steady progress. Finally, they reached the Palace they had first come to.
     When they stopped for the night, Leif said, "The checkpoint is only a few more days away. I have no idea how to get past it, but hopefully we’ll find a way. We would be the only ones walking in the direction out of this horrible place, which would arouse suspicion. We may need to leave the road."
     That night the mood was more upbeat than it had been in a long time. They had gotten to know Liesl while they traveled, and she in turn had gotten to know them. They told her of their experiences with the Source and how the Source was the purpose of their lives. Hope grew in Liesl as never before.
     "Do you think the Source could care about someone like me?" she asked.
     Isabella's heart broke. "Yes, Liesl, I guarantee it."
     Kamiko was excited. "We may actually get out of this," she exclaimed.
     The next morning caused her to be less optimistic. While they ate breakfast, they overheard a nearby table discuss a goon squad that had stopped them yesterday on the road, looking for spies.
     "And they kidnapped two Palace employees," one of them added. 
     Leif and the others hurried back to their rooms.
     "They’re putting two and two together," he said. “From now on we stay in one room.”
     Their situation was not good. Devan was still too weak to travel fast, and even if he could, the checkpoint would be manned. And now goon squads were actively searching for them. It was just a matter of time. 
     "The only thing I know to do is look to the Source," he suggested.  "Let's get into the Beat and see if there are any flows from the Source."
     "But won't the Pulsing and Death pick up on that?" Isabella asked.
     "Immediately," Leif replied.
     They sat in silence for a moment. One by one, they let their Sensing reach out for the Beat.  A golden glow filled the room. Liesl wasn’t able to detect the Beat or the glow, but her Longing told her something was happening. She, too, wanted that kind of relationship. With all her heart. After a while, Leif had them stop with the Beat.
     "Did any of you get anything from the Source that might help us know what to do?" None of them had. Leif was a little shaken. "That was our last hope. I don't know why the Source is silent."
     "Maybe it's a test," Kamiko answered. "It wouldn't be the first time we had to trust the Source when we didn’t know how it would turn out."
     "But I’ve never felt this vulnerable," Isabella responded. "What do we do now?" she asked, looking at Leif.
     "We wait here and put it in the Source's hands," he decided. "Either the goons show or the Source will hide us from them. Either way, we’ve done all we know to do. We came and rescued Devan. Now it’s up to the Source."
     They remained at the same inn. The day slowly passed.
     "Tell me more," Liesl kept saying.
     She wanted to know everything. What happened on their journey? What did an agent do? She was a sponge. The others were glad to talk to her. It helped pass the time, and it buoyed them up because it reminded them of how the Source had watched over them in the past. They hoped it would happen again.
     The thought he might die was a difficult thing to face, Leif realized. If captured, the Pulsing and Death would surely have the goons kill him. Leif thought he could face dying since he knew he would join the Source in the Source's world. He couldn't think of anything more wonderful than that. But the Leif-that-got-hungry didn't feel that way and would fight dying fiercely because he feared Death. Leif found himself fighting fear, too. But he had the tools with which to do it. He knew the Source. He had a relationship with the Source.
     What do people do who don't know the Source? he wondered.
     He and Isabella talked more honestly than they had in a long time, now that it seemed there wasn’t much time left.
     "It seemed you looked to me more than the Source," she said. "I couldn't supply those things, and resented that you had put me in that situation."
     "I see that now," Leif admitted.
     "But on this mission to rescue Devan," she continued, "I saw the Leif I married, the Leif that looked to the Source, not me."
     "If we make it out of this,” Leif said, “I hope to show you I can still be that guy you married."
     "I hope so too, Leif," Isabella murmured. They spent a long time just holding each other.
     Devan improved by the hour. "I can't let myself go into a tailspin again," he told Kamiko and Liesl. "I quit listening to the Source and started listening to lies."
     Kamiko and Liesl were self-appointed nurses for Devan. They fussed over him continuously.
     "I hope you don't expect this kind of attention forever," Kamiko kidded.
     "I could get used to it," Devan replied.
     Liesl was afraid Devan would forget her now that his friends had showed up, but he didn't. He knew how much he owed Liesl.
     "I would be dead by now," he told her. "I hope when we are out of here I can be your mentor and help you. With the Source, you will find your life completely changed, for the better."
     Liesl, for the first time in her life, found herself actually looking forward to the future.
     All day they hadn’t been disturbed. No loud knock on the door; no goon squads. They took that as a good sign.
     “Maybe the Source is protecting us and we don't know it," Isabella ventured.
     With that thought, they went to sleep.

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