Aria still couldn’t fully wrap her head around the fact that they were actually executing the plan today. She had no idea if they'd succeed. What was certain was that they were either getting out, getting jailed for the rest of their life or in the worst case scenario, they'd be killed. As much as she still didn't believe the plan would go without a hitch, she didn't want that third scenario either.
Aria set down the torch she was holding. This section was just never going to be cut. If she continued any longer with her heart racing and her palms sweating, she was just going to end up hurting herself and that’s the last thing she wanted at the moment. She looked towards Daisy and Harry. They’d already given up just like her and were working on very slowly packing away the tools. Smiling to herself at the two of them being as predictable as they always were in these situations, she decided to join them in packing away.
“You two gave up already?” asked Aria as she walked over to them.
“Look who's talking,” said Harry.
“Hey, I lasted longer than you two,” said Aria.
“She has a point,” said Daisy.
Harry pouted. “Whose side are you on?””
“The side of the truth,” said Daisy.
“Oh really,” said Harry, frowning, “Okay then.”
“Heh, you know I am always…” began Daisy. Aria rolled her eyes.
“Children, break it up,” she said, “today is not the day to waste an hour arguing.” That sobered them both up quickly.
“It is, isn’t it?” said Harry.
“It should all go well,” said Daisy, “everything has been awesome so far.”
“Yeah, it's almost too perfect,” said Harry. He shook his head. “Argh, no point in overthinking this, why don’t we finish packing these away and get going already?”
“I’m sure it will be fine Harry,” said Daisy, giving his shoulder a squeeze.
“Well…” began Aria, before deciding not to go through with that remark. "Let’s all just be extra careful.”
“Yeah, come on, let’s do this,” said Harry, raising his hands and giving a tiny cheer before returning to packing things away, “we shouldn’t get late.”
“Agreed,” said Aria, “let’s move then.”
They spent the next few minutes packing away, still moving relatively slowly because they didn’t want to risk getting flagged for leaving early. Once they were done, the three of them sat down for a moment to watch the stars. Aria could barely focus on anything that night.
Her mind was too cluttered with everything that could go wrong that night and the stars didn't have the same calming effect it usually did. Now the sky reminded her of the hundreds of thoughts fighting for dominance in her head. Chief among all of those thoughts was the fact that she was going to have to actually lead things tonight. She'd committed most of the map to memory and she knew what to do but she was also very much aware of how perfectly things had been going recently. She couldn't shake the feeling that they were due for some failure and it was all going to arrive today.
Aria gave up on trying to look at the stars and proceeded to just watch her two companions. They both looked a lot more confident than she felt and Harry seemed to actually be counting down the seconds as he waited there. She could at least be happy that he was getting to realize his lifelong dream. Aria knew very well that if it wasn't for where they were sitting, he'd be doing a dance of joy. Then she remembered what could happen should things go wrong. She sighed. This was going to be a tough night.
“Let’s get moving then,” said Harry, suddenly, getting to his feet, “Time is up.”
Aria checked the time. Just about time. She slowly got to her feet. “I suppose it is.”
“Why the…?” began Daisy.
“Just a little tired,” said Aria, smiling at them. Dredging up a confidence she didn’t quite believe in, she made her way towards the sliding doors. They slid open smoothly. Taking a deep breath, she plunged into the darkness.
“Stay behind me till the hall, and then…”
“...I take the lead,” finished Harry, “I’m ready, let’s go.”
“Me too,” said Daisy. The two exchanged a quick high five. Aria turned to flash them a quick smile. As much as she was feeling the pressure, she could always count on those two to keep it light no matter what was going on in their heads. And then, they were off.
The trip to the Hall was quick. Daisy’s worries about the dark seemed to have been temporarily overridden by her excitement and she was moving with a lot more confidence than she usually did. Ironically, Aria herself was the jumpiest that day. Every patch of darkness made her feel like something was going to come out of it and catch them. She couldn’t shake the feeling that the aliens knew exactly what was going down that night.
Pushing her thoughts aside like she’d been doing all day, she trudged on until they finally arrived at The Hall. It wasn’t as empty as it usually was. Mrs. Kane, Mr. & Mrs. Danvers were all waiting for them. Mr. Kane had already said goodbye earlier as he was on duty that night. That had been one of the hardest things Aria had ever done. It looked like it wasn’t about to get any easier.
Daisy moved towards her parents. Harry ran over to Mrs. Kane. Aria stood at the back as the two of them said their goodbye’s. Daisy’s parents seemed to be taking it the hardest or at least they weren’t as good at Mrs. Kane at hiding their feelings. They were both tearing up worse than Daisy was.
Aria's own eyes were getting a bit misty as she walked towards Harry and her mother who were still hugging each other tightly. As Aria walked closer her mother reached out and pulled her in along with Harry.
“I’m going to miss you both,” she whispered. Mrs. Kane was putting on a brave face but Aria sensed the crack in her voice.
“Me too,” said Aria, her own voice not as steady as she would've liked. They stood there a few seconds, neither of them quite knowing what to say.
“Bring them all back safely,” said her mom finally. “I know you’ll do an amazing job.”
“I didn’t expect to ever utter this sentence but, I will do my best to get them out of here safely and to the portal,” said Aria.
“I know you will,” said her mom, pulling away to look at her face to face. “You were always an amazing leader.”
“Not as good as you,” said Aria. The two of them looked at each other for a long few seconds before he mother gave her one final nod, before pulling away from the two of them.
“Okay, that’s enough delaying,” said Mom, authority lacing her voice once again as she seemed to compose herself. “I think it’s about time now. Like I said the other day, have some hope and do what you do best.”
“I’ll try my best Mom,” said Aria, a tear finally making its way down her cheek as she tried not to choke up completely.
“Good Luck,” said Mrs. Kane, wiping the tear away gently, “I’ll see you soon.” With one final nod, Aria tore herself away from her mother’s eyes and joined Daisy. Harry came along soon after. The three of them turned for one final wave. Daisy's parents were trying to smile and Aria nodded to them as well, silently promising to return everyone safely. They'd never hold her responsible for anything but she knew in her heart as the appointed leader she was the one responsible for whatever happens. With that final though, the three of them turned towards the passage that would take them to the secret tunnel
“Let’s break out of an inescapable prison,” said Harry, smiling at the two of them, enthusiasm radiating off him in waves. Seconds ago he'd been crying, but now he looked like he'd already escaped. He then proceeded to laugh. “That sounded way more epic in my head.”
Daisy joined in and Aria smiled gratefully at both of them. They were the best team she could ask for, and from the little interaction she'd had with Kate and Ryan, she knew they were good people too. Maybe this was possible after all.
The three of them set off into the darkened hallways for hopefully their final time.