I hate to say it, but I got a surge of pleasure seeing Arvid Bergfalk actually cringe in terror. “Please, don’t shoot, Phoenix,” he begged, voice trembling.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Jia peering around the corner, her eyes extra-wide with shock. “Downstairs, hurry!” I told her. “I’ll meet you there. Go – now!” She turned and ran.
“Phoenix, you don’t want to do this,” said Arvid.
“My name is Xifeng. And yes, I do want to do this,” I said. “You kidnapped Aksel and me from our homes! You’ve tortured and starved us. You forced me to be your…your…” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. I steadied the gun, which shook in my hands, and pressed my fingers against the trigger, ready to squeeze.
Arvid’s voice came out in a panicked whimper. “But I had to do it,” he said. “You don’t understand. They made me treat you that way. They made me. I had no choice.”
I frowned. “Who are you talking about? How can anyone make you—”
Arvid shook his head. “I’m not allowed to say. They’d kill me – my family, too. And they’ll come for you, too. They are watching, Xifeng. They know – they’re com—” His words were cut off by a terrible gurgling, choking sound. Clutching at his throat, Arvid dropped to the floor and was still.
“Arvid?” I whispered? He didn’t move. I dropped to the floor and checked his pulse, which I figured wasn’t too different from a human pulse. It was still there, beating hard. He hadn’t dropped dead – only fainted, or something. I don’t know why I felt relieved. I had meant to kill him, and maybe I would have. I don’t know.
I left him there on the floor and fled the Bergfalk house. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, Arvid’s father called out for me to stop. I whirled around and lifted my gun, and he fell back, raising his arms in surrender.
“Let’s go,” I said to Jia, who was waiting for me beneath the house. “We have to get far away from here.”
“Where will we go?” asked Jia, panting as she jogged along beside me.
I pointed toward the dark silhouette of the mountains in the distance. “There. You will get to meet your sister, Meiying.”
“I have a sister?” Jia’s voice rose with excitement. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
I shushed her. “It wasn’t safe. Now hurry, before they find us!”
We hiked by the light of the moons, following hidden trails that Aksel and I had discovered during our explorations. Just after dawn, we arrived at last to the quarry, which was now to become our permanent home. At least, on this planet.
Meiying and Jia’s reunion brought tears to my eyes, and to Aksel’s as well. “You did it,” he said, embracing me. “You brought our little girl home.”
“And I didn’t even have to kill anyone,” I said, smiling through my tears.
We were a family – just the four of us. Plus Chaplin and Lucille, of course. And for the time being, anyway, we were safe and happy. It wasn’t over, though. I knew that well. There was no way Arvid was just going to let me take his daughter and disappear. And those people, or alien beings, or whatever he had mentioned, would be looking for us, too. They’ll come for you, too. They are watching, Xifeng. The words sent a shudder down my spine.