The police officer looked worse than his sister did. His pale blue denim shirt was covered black over the right shoulder, stained with a ring of blood. His white moustache hung low over his top lip, as if in desperate need of being cut. His iron-white hair jutted out like he had the worst case of bedhead in the world, and his face looked tired with the nets of wrinkles around his eyes, which cut long, deep groves down the sides of his face.

But even though he looked so ragged and ill, Zach saw the bright glint in his clear blue eyes, which he remembered the police officer having.

“How you doing, kid?” Tanner mumbled as he saw Zach.

“Better than you, I guess,” Zach said back. Then looking at Anna, he added, “What are you doing here? I thought you were back…”

“At the cottage?” Fandel suddenly said, stepping from the shadows. “No, your sister has been in Endra for a little while now – but her visit will be brief.”

“Just let her go,” Zach said, turning his crossbow on Fandel.

“You wouldn’t kill your uncle, would you?” Fandel teased.

“Why not? You tried to kill me,” Zach reminded him.

Taking a step closer to Zach, Fandel looked him up and down and sneering, he said, “Yuck, you look all grown up all of a sudden. You could be mistaken for a real man.”

“He’s more of a man than you,” Faraday cut in.

Then turning to look at Faraday, he smiled and said, “Ah, the mechanical man. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“From who?” Neanna asked, stepping up beside Faraday as if to offer him protection somehow.

Tamrus stepped forward, and with a look of sorrow on his face, he looked at Faraday and said, “I’m sorry for getting you involved in all of this, my dear friend.”

On hearing this, Fandel began to cackle wildly and skipped over to be next to Tamrus. He threw his arm around the Boulder man’s shoulder and said, “Isn’t that sweet, Faraday? Tamrus is so sorry for getting you involved in all of this!”

“What’s going on, Tamrus?” Zach asked, his heart beginning to race.

“Oh, you haven’t told them, Tamrus? How very remiss of you. Have I let our little secret slip out?” Fandel mocked.

“What secret?” William barked.

“Our little secret!” Fandel continued to gloat, his arm around Tamrus’s shoulder. “Didn’t Tamrus tell you about our deal?”

“What deal?” Neanna breathed, her eyes flitting between the two of them.

Fandel turned to face Tamrus and said, “You lying lump of rock! Fancy not telling them that in exchange for bringing them here to me, I’m going…”

“Why?” Faraday asked, turning his black eyes on Tamrus. “I thought you said we were friends.”

“What choice did I have?” Tamrus began to explain. “Throat was going to kill us all.”

“And he still will!” Zach cried.

Pretending to be hurt, Fandel said, “What do you mean? What are you trying to say? That Throat is not to be trusted?”

Ignoring him, Zach continued to stare at Tamrus and Faraday.

Then for the first time since coming across the mechanical man in the desert, Zach was sure he could see some kind of emotion on his face and hear it in his voice. He looked and sounded hurt. Zach couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to be betrayed by a friend.

“After everything you said we’ve been through. How could you, Tamrus?” Faraday asked.

“I’m sorry,” Tamrus said, his narrow eyes blinking closed so as not to look upon the man he had betrayed.

A heavy silence fell over them until Bom suddenly grunted, “I told you they couldn’t be trusted. I told you we should have never come here.”

Then as if someone had just stepped in something foul and walked it across the hangar, a vile smell wafted under their noses. The Delf stepped from the shadows just behind Anna and Tanner and said, “So who do you trust, Zachary Black? It’s not only the rock-thing who has betrayed you – there has been someone else amongst your friends who has made sure that you and the key have been brought to the canyon.”

Zach whirled around, and covering his nose with the back of his hand, he gagged at the sight of the witch standing before him. “What are you talking about? None of my friends would betray me.”

“Are you so sure about that, peacekeeper?” The Delf cooed, a flurry of maggots falling from her mouth and onto the ground where they wriggled away across the hard, metal floor.

“Yes,” Zach said over the sound of his racing heart.

“Let’s ask them, shall we?” the Delf belched. “After all, we have quite a gathering.”

Zach glanced around the hangar hidden beneath the ground. He looked at the dead peacekeepers, who had their crossbows trained on him. He knew in his heart that he was finally trapped. But what he feared more than anything, was dying with the knowledge that one of his friends had betrayed him. He couldn’t believe that as they had fought their way across Endra, one of them had secretly been engineering his capture and death. Not wanting to believe such a thing, and knowing that he was beat, he finally lowered his crossbows and looked into the eyes of his friends gathered around him.

“Please tell me it isn’t so,” he whispered. “Please tell me that there isn’t a traitor amongst the people I have come to look upon as a family.”

Anna looked at her brother, and he seemed to have grown up since she had last seen him. Fandel had been right. Her brother did seem older somehow – he had turned into man. It almost crushed Anna to see the hurt and the bewilderment in her brother’s eyes. She wanted to go to him, tell Zach that she was his family, even if one of his friends had betrayed him. She would be his family no matter what happened.

“I came this far to save my sister’s life,” Zach said, and he couldn’t look at her. Part of him felt like a failure now. “We came this far to save your Queen, didn’t we?” And as he spoke, Zach desperately fought back the tears which were standing in his eyes. “We have come so close to reaching the volcano and the box. These flying machines would have gotten us safely across the Outer-Rim. We nearly won.”

His friends stood silently and stared back at him. Not one of them said a word. And it was as he searched each of their faces for the truth, he noticed one of them was missing. One of them had blinked away, had deserted him.

Feeling as if his heart had been ripped from his chest, Zach whispered, “Where is Neanna?”

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