Something bright hits my eyes. Looking ahead I can see a large open room. Much like the hallway, everything is white save for a small circle in the center of the floor painted gray. Standing in that circle is a cylinder stand. On top of that is a gold cup. My heart skips a beat as I realize this is what I’m here to retrieve. The end of my mission is not all that far away.
My mind automatically jumps to the ‘what if’ game. What if Will can’t turn off the lasers? What if someone catches me trapped here? What if there’s no safe way to get that cup? What if I lose the cup?
The last one is easy. If I don’t get the cup then I won’t return at all. The handbook, which we all received our first day, is very specific: A mission must always be completed. If you don’t succeed we don’t want you back. It’s harsh, but it’s law. Vido doesn’t accept the weak into his ranks. If there’s any reason you give him to make him think you can’t get the job done you’re out.
Will’s voice suddenly pierces my ear. “Got it! System will be down in five seconds.”
I count to five, and sure enough the lasers disappear. Without wasting any time, I push myself off the ground and race toward the main room. The prize is glowing in my vision. Not even three more strides and I’ll have it in my grasp.
“Wait,” Will cries out. I stop on a dime. What now? “More motion sensors.” He quickly knocks them out and tells me I can go. So I step out of the hallway.
The room is a lot bigger than it looked from afar. Getting a closer look I realize that the walls are actually a faded pink hue. There’s a hallway to the right and a wall made completely of window to my left. The glass lets in the brilliant colors of the sunrise; pinks, yellows, blues. If I had the time I’d stop and stare.
I turn my attention back to the cup. I let myself relax as I realize there’s nothing here guarding the cup. No guards, no lasers, no sensors, seeing as Will already knocked those out, nothing. All I have to do is grab the thing and leave.
“Starting working on the door back out,” I tell Will. “I’ll go in once you find the way out. Shouldn’t take us more than…” I freeze. There’s a soft rumbling sound coming from behind me. It takes me a while to even process the fact that something is wrong.
The rumbling gets louder and I turn to see the air full of dust. I watch as the cloud grows and the floor starts to shake. Great, another earthquake. Just my luck. As I try to find the perfect place to wait it out, Will shouts instructions into my ear.
“There’s no way out! The hallways are collapsing. Grab that cup and get out of there!”
“Get out how?” I shout back at him, but I don’t actually want an answer. I turn toward the cup only to stop in my tracks. A boy is hanging from a cable just above it. There’s a hole in the ceiling and the pieces are crumbled on the ground.
Colton grins when he sees I’ve noticed. “I’d expect more competition than this. Especially from you, Bryn.” He gives me one last nasty grin before grabbing the cup and motioning through the ceiling for someone to pull him up. My legs are moving before my mind comprehends the situation. I dive at Colton’s legs, but my arms wrap around empty air as he flies back up through the hole.
He has the cup. I failed my mission. I failed everything.
I can feel myself tearing up. My voice cracks as I talk to Will. “We failed. I’m sorry, Will. So, so sorry.”
“I don’t care,” he snaps. “You’ve got more to worry about.”
Before I can ask, the windows behind me explode. I cover my head as glass rains down over me. I feel its points stabbing my exposed skin, but nothing sticks. When I remove my hands I realize there’s a piece stuck in my hand, blood pooling underneath. With a quick pull I free the glass from my skin. The wound stings like hell, but I can’t think about that now.
Standing in front of me are six men, weapons up. They’re unfazed by the dust filling the room and the glass littering the floor. I don’t even question how they got into the room; it’s obvious. Their guns trigger the panic in my mind, but I hold strong. I know that the bullets in the barrels can kill me. All I have to do is make them miss.
I think of the now open windows. A warm wind finds its way in, wrapping me in my final decision. I’m not getting out of here alive.
I tell Will of my plan, speaking only as loud as I dare. “And if I don’t make it—"
“No,” he says definitely, cutting me off. “You’re forgetting what I can do.” The security system switches back on, setting a thick layer of laser around the small area beyond the cylinder where the cup had sat. I turn my head quickly, but not quick enough to miss the red lines cut through the men’s bodies. The image mixed with the terrible screams force bile to rise in my throat.
I want it all to be over. I want the men to disappear, their bodies ejected from my line of site. I want Will to tell me he’s found a way out, that I don’t have to take this leap of faith. But it’s not going to happen. I have to do this. So I turn toward where the windows used to be and take off.
Will shouts in my ear, but I can’t make it out. An uncontrollable pain shoots through my calf and I fall to the ground. My hands wrap around the area as I scream and I feel cold metal against my skin.
A bullet. I’ve been shot.
The pain doesn’t stop. It pulsates every time my heart beats and every breath brings more. My skin burns every time I reach for it. My muscles seize up and I can’t move my leg even if I wanted to. Terror strikes me almost as much as the pain does.
“Get up!” Will shouts through the earpiece, panic taking over his voice. “You need to get out of there! It’s all… wait, who’re you? I can’t… don’t do this! Bryn! You need to—" His voice suddenly cuts off and is replaced by static.
I try to call out his name, beg for him to stay with me, but I can’t find the strength to. The pain is all I can think about. I grasp at my leg only to recoil against my own hand. There’s no way to make this better. I need a hospital.
The blood from the glass gash starts to mix with the blood gathering on the ground from the bullet wound. It turns a deep crimson as it grows larger. The more I look at it the more bile returns to my throat.
Then there’s a voice that I don’t recognize in my ear. It’s a deep, male voice. “Let yourself die, Ms. Patterson. We have you under surveillance. That man there is my premier sniper. The only reason he didn’t shoot to kill was because I ordered him not to. Not yet at least.”
I look up to see a single man standing over me, gun pointed directly at my forehead. He wears a black mask that hides his face and a purple jumpsuit to cover the rest of him. There's nothing recognizable about his physique.
“Just give in,” the voice in my ear continues. “You’re the only one who can save your partner.” For the first time, the pain in my leg dulls a bit. “Die and he lives. Live and he dies. It’s that simple. Make your choice.”
Will. They have Will. What am I supposed to do? I can’t possibly let them kill him, no matter how much I want to keep my own life. This shouldn’t even be a choice. Just as I resolve to let the life slowly drain from my body I make my choice.
Trying to ignore the pain, I kick out my good leg and connect with the man's ankles. The gun flies from his grasp as he lands directly on his back. In the split moment before he gets up I dive to the ground and wrap my fingers around the terrible mechanism. Almost blindly, I pull the trigger and pray that it hits true.
I almost don’t hear the man’s cry, but I can see the pain in his body as he falls back onto the floor. He’s gripping his stomach, curled up on himself.
My heartbeat slows, blood rushes to my head. The room around me spins as I finally realize the truth. I just shot someone. Possibly killed them too, I reason as the man coughs blood onto the clear floor. What have I done?
The rumbling from earlier overtakes the feeling of remorse. My body snaps back into survival mode as I get my bearings about me again. I have to get out of the building before I’m crushed by the towering walls. The hallways are now completely closed in and the main room is next.
I turn quickly on my bad leg, sending shooting pain back through my muscles. I’ve used up all my adrenaline. Now is the only chance I have.
Hobbling, I make it to the wall that once held the windows and throw myself out into the morning air. I stare down the pitch black sea as I speed toward it.