6: Locked Out
The day goes by too quickly for the Runner. The girl sleeps on the couch while Daniel tries to make use of his workout equipment. But thoughts often lead him astray and his life ticks away faster than he wishes.
He can see the door to the tunnels in his mind, sitting on one of the walls in the lower part of his old Runner Building. But how will he get there without anyone noticing?
The girl is still asleep on the couch when Daniel goes downstairs to take a long swig of orange juice. The acidic liquid quenches his thirst and leaves a tangy aftertaste as he molls over the thought of going back into his old home. Did he even want to go down there again and face what he did? The truth is, he does. He wants to see Rose again, explain to her where exactly he stands and hope she agrees with him. He wants to know about the Unnamed and what is going on, not just to protect himself but his Servants too. What if they went after them next? What if some of them are all ready a part of the Unnamed and he has no idea?
He stops his thought process before paranoia takes a toll on his brain.
Daniel makes his way up to his bedroom, still pondering. And then he sees a black sleeve sticking out of a drawer, a red wing glowing in artificial light.
He knows how he’s getting in there.
. . .
The hood casts a black shadow on Daniel’s dark skin. It’s a strange sensation, being back in his Runner Jacket. The past two years pass by him as his feet pound on the sopping wet cracked concrete. Just like they had when this all began. When Daniel, ignorant of the threat in the World at the time, watched as the Head Leader asked him questions that could have Daniel killed.
The moonlight above casts eerie shadows all around him as he jogs, trying to step lightly, over to the Runner’s Building. Everyone should be asleep by now and he should be able to get in and out without any trouble.
Wrapping his hand around the doorknob, he twists it around. But it doesn’t budge.
He tugs at it, careful to not make much noise, but it’s no use. The door, for once in his life, is locked. He doesn’t remember going to that meeting. No one told him the Buildings were going to be locked up.
Maybe it’s just the Runner’s Building, he thinks to himself. It could be to protect just the runners since the Unnamed is after me and I’m their Elite...
Daniel takes off in the other direction, where the other tunnel is located: the Builder’s Building. If that door is unlocked, then... It’s not. He tugs and pulls and twists, the sounds crescendoing until he lets go with a frustrated groan. There’s only one option left.
The Runner turns around and finds a quickened pace as he rounds the inner wall of the World. The gate comes into view quickly as his breathing picks up. Not from fatigue, but from the adrenaline beginning to weave into his veins.
“Hey!” A Guard shouts out.
Daniel slows down as he draws nearer.
“You’re supposed to be asleep,” a second one says.
“I--” he stops himself, remembering his last trip through the gates. He doesn’t have an actual message to take anywhere this time. The only way to get through is to show his face. Elites are allowed to leave the gates.
Daniel takes an exasperated breath and pulls back the hood of his jacket. His heart pounds as his body readies itself for a random attack from the reformed rebellion. He sets his jaw.
“Daniel the Elite Runner,” the first Guard says, sounding shocked. HIs eyes bulge, and, suddenly, Daniel is aware of where the boy stands.
The Runner takes a few steps closer to the boy, whose panic shows tremendously in the moonlight. Quietly, Daniel begins to speak.
“I know what you are,” he hisses, his voice shaking. “If you’re going to run and tell them I’m here, go do it. But I guarantee you won’t see me tomorrow morning.”
The boy attempts to be confused, but Daniel shakes his head at the poor boy. “I don’t want to hear any excuses. Go. Now. That’s an order from me, and I’m an Elite. Don’t do as I say and you could find yourself guilty of treason and disrespect.”
With the last syllable popped from Daniel’s mouth, the boy shivers and sprints to move out of the way of the Runner’s hard stare. The other boy’s brow furrows, unsure of what just happened before him.
“Open the gate,” Daniel commands, moving to stand before the stillness of the doors. The Guard jumps right to it and the door scrapes open. As soon as there’s a big enough slit, Daniel sprints through and doesn’t look back. He barely even hears the sound of it closing. Doesn’t realize it until it slams shut and he’s standing before the wood-covered hole that leads to the place that held so many people--the people he had betrayed. He did the right thing though, didn’t he?
The Runner lifts up the hatch and slips down into the darkness, the sudden impact on his body from the ground making him fall to the hard surface as the black devours him. He closes his eyes and tries to remember the way. One leads to the Base, one leads to the World, and the middle one directs you straight to the Unnamed’s village, if you could call it that.
Just as he begins to walk, his eyes finally adjusted, he hears footsteps.
“I was beginning to think you wouldn’t show. After all, you do have an entire rebellion seeking revenge on you.”