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Hannah sat between Grace and Wes on the train tracks, listening to the quiet conversation around her. The Jumpers were clustered together, scared and feeling lost. If it wasn't safe for them in Cincinnati anymore, where could they go?
"They're back!" A Jumper yelled from his perch in a tree. Everyone looked up. Hannah scrambled to her feet and ran to the front of the group. Grace stopped beside her.
Hannah's heart pounded when she spotted two people walking toward them. One was tall, and the other short. The shorter person was limping a little bit.
"Skyler!" Hannah screamed, rushing towards her brother.
Skyler looked up and stopped in his tracks, his eyes locked on Hannah. Even though he knew she was alive, actually seeing her still shocked him and took his breath away.
Hannah nearly slammed into him, wrapping him in a tight hug. Skyler blinked and hugged her back, tears of joy pricking his eyes.
"You're alright!" Hannah sobbed.
"I'm okay." Skyler nodded. "You're alive..."
"Yeah." Hannah laughed a little. "I'm alive. I missed you."
"I missed you too," Skyler's voice cracked as the reality of it all set in. He had his sister back. She was there in his arms, she was laughing and crying and hugging him tight like she would whenever things got tough but refused to let him get discouraged.
"Kip," Wes's voice sounded wary. "Where's Cody?"
Silence fell on the group of Jumpers. All eyes were on Kip. Some on Skyler and Hannah, but the majority were on Kip.
It took Kip a minute to compose himself so his voice was steady. "Cody... Cody didn't make it. He was badly wounded and stayed behind to give us time to get out."
Grace gasped. A few other girls did too. Wes stared at Kip like he expected him to be joking and for Cody to jump out of the bushes.
"We're gonna be okay, kids," Kip went on. "I know this is hard. It's really hard for me. But we'll pull through this. We've done it before."
"We've never been flushed out of our home before," Wes said bitterly. "How do we pull through this one? No home, Cody's gone, and it's not even safe anymore in the city."
All the Jumpers looked at Kip for the answer. Skyler looked at him too. How would they bounce back from this one?
"We'll figure something out," Kip said. "We'll wait until the train comes and we get out of here. We'll find a safer place to live, and maybe people who can fix the situation here with the mayor."
Skyler nodded. He looked at Wes, who looked angry as well as nervous. Everyone looked nervous. There didn't seem to be any hope to run to anymore. They were homeless, they had lost a close friend and leader. They were being hunted like animals.
"When does the train come?" Skyler asked.
"Any minute now," Kip replied.
As if to affirm his answer, a train whistle blew from the direction of the city. A few Jumpers scrambled off the tracks.
"Alright," Kip called to everyone. "We need to make sure we get the little ones on first!"
The train came around the corner of the trees, huffing smoke and moving fast. Jumpers began running.
But then big black vans roared into view, getting ahead of the train. A few kids screamed in alarm. Nabbers jump out of the vans, armed with guns. They started firing into the clustered group of Jumpers with no hesitation.
"How did they find us?!" Hannah squeaked.
"I don't know, just run!" Skyler grabbed her hand and bolted. "We have to get on that train!"
Nabbers were firing their sedative guns into the group of Jumpers as the train came closer. Some Nabbers were clever and jumped the train too.
Skyler raced alongside the train, adrenaline giving his tired body one last boost. He caught hold of the train and jumped, pulling himself onto the train and clinging to it. He glimpsed Hannah clutching the train a little ways behind him.
Skyler glanced back, and his heart sank. So many Jumpers already down, sprawled out unconscious on the ground.
Skyler forced himself to look away and climb to a safer place. The safest he could easily get to was the top of the boxcar.
The other Jumpers had had the same idea, and a few were already on top of the cars. A couple of Jumpers on another car shoved a Nabber off, but the Nabber took one of them with him and they tumbled onto the ground. They rolled clear of the tracks, but the Nabber overpowered the Jumper.
A quick count told Skyler that less than twelve Jumpers had managed to jump the train. Nabbers had given up trying to hop the train too, and soon the train rounded another corner away from the city and the danger.
Right before they did, however, Skyler saw Kip still on the ground, running beside the train. Before they turned the corner, Skyler's breath caught in his throat when Kip collapsed, unconscious. A Nabber stood behind him, her gun raised.
Skyler swallowed, overwhelmed and not entirely sure what to do as he tried to fight off the panic. His heart told him to go back, but common sense told him to stay on the train. It was too dangerous to try rescuing everyone a second time. Horatio would be ready for it this time. He would put them all under so much security not even a legion of actual soldiers could get in.
"Skyler?" Hannah's voice made him look at her. She was watching him worriedly.
"How many got on?" Skyler asked.
"Including us? I only counted eight." Hannah looked back at the city. "Kip's not on the train..."
Skyler nodded numbly. Hatred suddenly boiled up inside of him. Hatred for Horatio, for Claire, for the Nabbers, for the stupid cyborgs, for Horatio's stupid plan, whatever it was. Horatio had harassed Skyler and his friends for too long. This needed to end now. They had lost too many of their friends, their family. Tony, Cody, and now Kip were gone when they didn't have to be. They shouldn't have been taken or died. The idea that the man who had been like a dad to Skyler was captured by these creeps with drug-loaded guns made Skyler even more angry.
He wouldn't run away this time.
"We need to gather everyone," Skyler said. "Everyone on one car."
It took a long time to communicate this, but soon the Jumpers leaped each car and joined up near the front of the train. Jonah and Ethan, the boy who had joined Cody's initial rescue party, help Skipper over the final car. She looked terrified and tearful, but unhurt.
Aggie was there too, and she looked as angry as Skyler felt.
"Allison knocked a Nabber off the train," she said. "But the jerk grabbed her, and she fell."
Hannah hugged Aggie. For the first time, Skyler saw Aggie cry.
"Skyler!" Wes's voice made Skyler turn. Wes was pushing Grace in front of him. "Skyler, Grace has a tracker."
"What?" Skyler frowned. "A tracker?"
"I'm sorry!" Grace shoved Wes away from her. "I didn't know they put it in me!"
"How do you know, Wes?" Jonah asked.
"There." Wes turned Grace until her right arm faced Skyler. He pointed to a small mark on her shoulder. A thin cut sewn together. Beneath the skin, something rectangular just barely bulged under the incision. "She had a bandage on, and I was more than a little suspicious."
"Wes, they could have just followed Skyler and Kip," Hannah said.
"No," Wes snapped. "Kip's too smart to be followed. He wouldn't let that happen."
Grace was touching the spot on her shoulder. Skyler felt a pang of nervousness.
"Then they can still track us," Skyler said. "If that's how they found us now..."
"She needs to get off," Wes said, his voice full of anger.
Grace looked startled and scared. She looked at Ethan pleadingly. Ethan looked away uncomfortably. Skipper clung to Hannah, staring at Grace fearfully.
"We all do," Skyler said. "We all have to get off."
"Excuse me?" Wes looked at him. "We just got on, now you're asking us to get off? Skyler--"
"Shut up, Wes!" Skyler snapped. "We can't leave our friends behind. We have to go back and rescue everyone."
"Yeah, we already tried that." Wes glared at him. "Look how brilliantly that worked. Grace is our problem right now!"
"This isn't Grace's fault," Skyler replied. "She didn't know she had a tracker. We all would have done the exact same thing she did. Right now we have to get off this train and go back. It's gonna be hard, and Horatio might expect us to try. But we have to."
Everyone was silent. Hannah gripped Skyler's hand.
"I'll go," she said.
"Me too." Skipper nodded. "I want to help Beth and Kip."
Ethan and Jonah nodded. Aggie smiled and gave a thumbs up.
"I'll only get you all killed," Grace said. "I'll draw them off and give them someone to chase while you guys do the hard stuff."
Skyler smiled at her. Grace tried to smile back.
Everyone looked at Wes. He sighed and threw his hands in the air with exasperation.
"Fine!" He said. "Let's jump off the stupid train and get ourselves turned into cyborgs."
"We have to jump off now," Skyler said. "Otherwise it'll take weeks for us to get back."
"I'll stay on," Grace said. "They'll think we all stayed on the train. It'll send Nabbers that direction and give you guys less of them to worry about."
"Thanks, Grace," Aggie murmured. Hannah hugged Grace tight.
"Be careful," Hannah told her.
"You too," Grace said. "All of you, stay safe."
Skyler wanted to protest. Grace couldn't go off on her own like that. It was way too dangerous.
"Don't worry about me, Jumper." she winked at him before he could say anything. "You go out there and rescue our family."
Skyler hesitated, but then nodded. There was no time to argue about this. Ethan and Jonah jumped off the train first, rolling when they landed. Aggie and Skipper jumped next. Skipper stumbled, but she landed safely with Aggie.
"Ladies first," Wes motioned to Hannah. She smiled at him and launched off of the boxcar.
Wes looked at Skyler.
"You get us killed," he warned, "and I will haunt your ghost for all eternity."
"Eh, we've never managed to avoid getting stuck with each other anyways." Skyler shrugged. "Always my fault, sure, but we can't break the pattern."
"If you value your life, we will." Wes swatted him on the back of his head before jumping off the train and rolling.
Skyler looked back at Grace. She nodded and smiled at him.
Skyler looked over the edge. He felt his anger return. He would rescue his friends, every single one. Horatio had to be stopped. Skyler refused to let him hurt anyone else. However long it took, however hard it would be, they would save everyone. They would put an end to Horatio's secret plans and his kidnapping and his murdering innocent people to make robot soldiers.
It had to stop now.
Skyler tensed, then he jumped.
* * * *
So there you have it! The first part/season/whatever of Fence Jumpers. I have loved writing this a lot, I've loved getting attached to characters (however long or short they appear in the story), and I've also loved hearing from you lovely readers and seeing what you think. A big thank you to you all for enjoying this serial, and I hope season two will bring even more enjoyment to you.
But now comes the hiatus. I have begun working on season two, and also the little extras to keep you all held over. But let me know what extras ya'll want to see. Character interviews, behind the scenes scenes (I know someone mentioned a desire to know how Madison was abducted, so maybe there will be a scene about that. ;) ), or anything else you guys think would be fun. There probably won't be a post every Saturday, because I want to make sure I don't run out of things to post while I write season two, but there will be stuff. Lots of stuff. Hopefully fun stuff.
So again, a big thank you to everyone who has enjoyed this story so far, and to those who have offered critiques to make it even better. Feel free to leave comments/questions! I love hearing from you!