2: the Threat
The Elite Leader listens intently to Daniel as he speaks about the Unnamed. He leaves almost nothing out, guilt holding him back on some things. Like Rose, for instance.
“So they want to take the Elites down?” The Elite Leader asks.
“Okay,” he says slowly, processing the information. “They hate the government. Everything about it. Mostly the Unnamed part, I think. They ordered me to kill Blaise, even. I don’t understand them completely though. I can’t tell you much more than that, really.”
The Elite Leader nods. “You did a good thing,” he says. “You stopped a potential war.”
He rises and straightens his clothing just before exiting. The Runner watches as he leaves. He hadn’t realized how tense he was. He was both dreading this moment and counting down the days until it. He hated the Unnamed, but he had no other choice. He stopped a war. He became an Elite.
Daniel looks around at the room, distracting himself and trying to rid of the rocks collecting in his stomach. But however much he tries to get his mind off of the past few months, his thoughts always return to it.
Mortimer the Elite Solver had been his Master since Daniel the Runner was five, before he was Named. When Daniel turned eighteen, he was old enough to enter the Competitions and compete for both a Name and a Title, and he would fight against whatever came his way to keep from becoming an Unnamed. That all changed when the Elites voted to place him in the rising rebellion as a spy: the Unnamed. A boy named Three, later to be named as Jim the Runner, made Daniel go through three tests to make sure he was Unnamed material--and to make sure he wasn’t a spy.
Daniel passed and was thrown into the world he never wanted to be in, the world of the Unnamed. There he learns about rankings among the Unnamed and that they are planning to take down the government. Daniel became attached to his newly found friends, and trained with them every day, until he beat Blaise the Elite Runner in a practice run. From that point on, he was a target for every Runner, especially the Elite Runner.
Blaise threatened Daniel’s life multiple times, sometimes close to taking it from him. But Daniel shone through until the night before the last race.
Before the Competitions even began, the government followed him into the secret hideout for the Unnamed, Rose the Runner, an Unnamed Rebel, shot Mortimer, and Daniel was told he must kill Blaise, not to mention beat him. The poor Runner was having his heart ripped in two and tugged every which way.
And the government was closing in, even though they didn’t know much about the rebellion, they just knew something big was going to happen during the Competitions.
Daniel barely passed the First Race, and scores higher than even Blaise did on the Second. The Final Race was up next, and the top five of the last race ended up having to stay at Blaise’s house. One boy was poisoned by Blaise, and Jim dies in a fire trying to save Rose the Runner and Daniel. They learned about a power-hungry chef in Blaise’s kitchen, and she threatened to kill both Rose and Daniel if they don’t put her in charge of the Unnamed.
They made it through the night, and the next day they were ready to run. It took some time for Daniel to catch up to Blaise, especially after he fell, but he does, and he wins, Rose coming in second place and Blaise in third. To say he was angry would be an understatement. He put Daniel in the hospital, where he was told he has become an Elite. He had the option to step down and return the spot to Blaise, which he considered only for a moment, but declined. He couldn’t have Blaise back in there, when he knows how he is.
Daniel announced his first execution as an Elite. It was for Blaise. He sent him off to his death. And then Rose the Runner walked in, arrested, trying to signal to him that the Unnamed were in place and are ready to attack, he just had to say the words.
And he betrayed them just like that.
Daniel places his chin on his fist, staring out at nothing. He pulls his dreads back into a ponytail and sighs. He can’t help but wonder if he chose the right side: the people over the Unnamed, justice over Runner Rose.
He groans. “What would you do, Mortimer?”
A knot rises in his throat as he thinks about his dead Master. He knows Rose killed him under the orders of One, the leader of the Unnamed Rebellion. But did she have to kill him? It was himself they were paranoid about, not his Master.
Daniel looks at the doorway, his heart pulling for him to stay in this room and never leave. But he has a mansion to fix, and a couple of cooks to take care of.
+ + +
Someone eventually comes by and shows Daniel to his mansion and around inside. The Servants seem to be having a party now that Blaise is out of their lives, and Daniel couldn’t be happier himself. He’d been tortured and manipulated by him too many times over the course of the past few months.
The time came for him to choose if he wanted a brand new staff or not. He only let two people go, afraid they were going to live up to what they told him the night Jim the Runner died in the fire set in Daniel’s room.
Everything is nice for a while as Daniel learns about the other Categories and how they practice and train for the Comepetitions. It’s hard working in his own work out routine in with everythign that comes with being an Elite, but he manages to do it, and gradually get faster and faster as well. There’s no way anyone could beat him.
Not even three months later, there’s a knocking on his door in the middle of the night. The Guards that keep him safe were shifting around, two of them by each door, alert and ready. Some of them are from other Elites who know about the Runner’s situation: not all of the Unnamed were captured, and they want Daniel’s blood. He betrayed them. That’s something they can never forgive.
One of the guards alerted Daniel, startling him awake. Once his heart stopped pounding, he made his way down the stairs. The rain outside is coming down hard, sounding like the drums that the Guards would walk down the streets to, putting on a parade when they would go to other city’s.
Daniel glances at one of the Guards on either side of the door, and he nods, cocking his gun and pointing it where the threat could be. Daniel takes a breath, wishing someone else could open the door, but he’d insisted that he would open it no matter what. He’d already felt bad about all the deaths that had happened when he wasn’t an Elite, and he was sure to diminish the numbers when he became one.
He grips the cold doorknob just as four more light knocks echo off the wood.
He swings the door open. There stands the girl that had written him the note on the napkin when Blaise had tried to poison him. Her hair clings to her face and red blood stains her pink, dripping wet nightgown.
“Daniel,” she utters, trying to reach out to him.
She falls forward, landing in Daniel’s arms, unconscious. Her blood mixes with the rain as it makes dark rivers down her body.
The man with the gun steps onto the porch, making sure no one else came with her, while the other one pets her off of Daniel. Her head leans back as the boy holds her like a baby, and her breathing is inconsistent. The bleeding is coming from her midsection and collecting on Daniel’s floor by the minute. He had changed Blaise’s black and blue colors to blue and white, in honor of Mortimer.
“Set her on the couch,” Daniel says, his voice quivering. He’s afraid. The woman that had wanted to control the Unnamed controlled her all of that time ago, and now here she is, bleeding. What does this mean?
Daniel walks over to inspect her. “Go get one of my Doctors,” he says quietly, the rain almost covering up his words. One of the Guards holds out of the door, locking it behind him.
The girl moves a bit, something poking out of the top of her dress. It shines in the lighting of the mansion.
Daniel walks over and takes it, being careful not to touch her. It’s a laminated piece of paper. The words are written in simple print, but it sends tremors down Daniel’s back.
We’re coming, Elite Runner Daniel. It’s time to face your punishment. You’ll never betray anyone ever again.