[5 YEARS AGO]
THE GRIM footsteps of the guards echoed throughout the laboratory. Halos hindi na humihinga ang dalawa para hindi sila matagpuan ng mga kalalakihan.
To Sam, it was the longest 15 minutes of his life. As he sat still on the dark corner of the ever-suffocating room, he held his dying friend on his hands, not capable of uttering a single word of comfort but a touch of frail assurance.
Silent, anxious, and praying, he made sure that his companion was still breathing when everything finally fell quiet.
“Leo, Leo,” he whispered, “wala na sila. We need to move. Can you walk?”
But it was a futile question. The floor they were glued on was already a pool of blood, and his skin was as pale as snow.
“It’s… so cold,” His friend shivered, probably from losing too much blood.
“I know, I know. But if we don’t move now, they will find us. Tara na. Tutulungan kita. Hindi kita iiwan kahit anong mangyari.”
Sam was already in tears. Even if they manage to somehow escape the heavily guarded laboratory, they would still need to venture a 30-kilometer wide forest. Leo would die along the way, and they both know this.
“No, no,” His voice was starting to shatter in weakness, “Y-you go, Sam, you go.”
He shook his head and tried to ignore the deeming fact that only one of them would and must survive. He pressed on his friend’s wounded abdomen and convinced himself that everything would be fine as long as they escaped this hell.
“U-umalis ka na, Sam.”
Naramdaman niya ang mahinang paggalaw ng kaibigan. Leo took out something from his lab coat’s pocket.
With his bloody hand, he took the pouch and peeked inside.
“H-how… paano mo ito nakuha?”
“Read the paper I’ve included inside. Use it on your son.”
“No, no. I’ll use it on you when we get out of here, so let’s go. We can--” the man stopped as soon as he felt a cold touch on his hand that was holding the wound.
“Please. I already died with Carol, and we both know that only one of us can get out of here alive. It’s gotta be you, Sam. Your son needs you.”
“It’s okay,” He continued, “May kaunting lakas pa ako. I’ll go and kill the power. Once all the lights go off, run for it.”
Tumingala si Sam para hindi matuluan ng luha ang mukha ng kaniyang kaibigan. He wanted to get angry, get mad at his friend for being too selfless, but he's right. He is always right. Kahit bali-baliktarin niya ang mundo, iisa lang ang solusyon.
“I’m… I’m sorry,” He almost whispered, “This was all my fault.”
Narinig niya ang mahinang pagtawa ng hawak niyang pasyente.
“Alam mong hindi totoo ‘yan, Sam. The only thing you should be sorry for is if everything we’ve done so far would go to waste. If all of these fall in vain, I’ll come back to earth and kick your ass. Kaya umalis ka na.”
He bitterly smiled and nodded.
Naglaan siya ng kaunting katahimikan para sa kaibigan. This friend has been his greatest goal and greatest source of courage. Tonight, he is his greatest downfall.
Sa huling pagkakataon, bago siya maglakad palayo, sinulyapan niya si Leo, mahinang tinutungo ang direksyon ng power switch. He had never anticipated any of these, and it has never crossed his mind that the last image of his friend that he’ll ever see would be that frail body, walking towards death.
It broke his heart into pieces, but he looked away, faced the other direction and walked.
And as he ventured the way out in tears, he vowed with all his body and soul that no matter what it takes, he will take down the organization, and he will return the once-in-a-lifetime favor.