I run as fast as my legs can bear, and when I see him pointing a gun at Peter, right at his head and smiling coldly at me, my heart skips a beat, but I make my choice quickly.
I slow down my pace, close my eyes and take in slow breaths before taking my pistol out. Without a second thought, I shoot a bullet through the air and it slices his wrist with a sharp scream echoing through the corridors. The man falls dead with a loud thump next to Peter on the floor.
Filled with worry, I draw in some air and stride towards them. I sit down cross legged next to Peter, staring at his unconscious face and wishing I took first aid classes back there at school.
“Maybe you should punch him.” Ms. Emma suggests, kneeling down across from me.
“Really? Do you think it’ll work?” I ask, disliking the idea.
“Most likely.” She assures with a curt nod.
Not really having any other choice, I ball my palm into a fist and connect it with his cheek. He suddenly sits up straight and gasps for breath while clutching his now bruised cheek.
“What on Earth did you just do!” he yells angrily.
“I just punched you?” I reply sheepishly, rubbing the back of my neck.
He lets out an exaggerated sigh before getting back on his feet.
“I won’t even ask why. My head is already exploding, ain’t needing your stupidity right now.” He complains walking away, leaving me and Ms. Emma snickering at his reaction.
“Are you sure he went this way?” Ms. Emma asks Peter for the third time now.
He groans in frustration, “Yes, I saw him chasing a Guard in this direction. I saw him taking this turn. Happy now?” he replies, absolutely losing the interest to talk.
“Didn’t I tell you that your nephew spots quite accurately?”
We all freeze when we see them. Harold’s gun is pointed at Mr. Gerald’s neck, and with a hand, grips his both arms behind his back. But that’s not it. What’s really frightening is the army of what looks like a thousand soldiers with pistols pointed at us, surrounded by robots on all sides.
He smirks before frowning again. “Now, you little useless teens, where is my brother?”
“We don’t know what you’re talking about.” I reply without missing a beat, staring at him blankly.
“I’m not kidding here. He received a warning saying that two intruders are in the Base, went to check it and never came back. And I’m pretty sure your curious friend is what caused the trouble. Now, you better speak before your uncle dies, for real.” He threatens, glancing back at Peter.
My mind can’t stop thinking of a terrifying possibility.
What if he caught Zoey? Worse yet, what if he shot her? I won’t say we could’ve heard it, we were shooting ourselves, and that’s enough to deafen us. The more the thought spirals in my mind, the more my heart races.
Everyone remains silent. Peter opens his mouth to speak but stops midway and turns his gaze to me, furrowing his eyebrows.
“Did you hear that?” he mouths.
I shake my head and pay more attention. As if all of them noticed, they copied and started searching for a sound too.
And then it strikes me, something not recognizable, a voice I guess.
“Yes.” I reply out loud.
“I think it came from where you got here.” Harold suggests, still making the business end of the gun touch Mr. Gerald.
“Zoey!” Peter concludes and runs past us, disappearing into the hallway.
I force myself to follow him and start pounding behind.
Breathing heavily, I fasten my pace, my feet already aching from running too fast. He stops and I bump into him. I quickly regain my balance and take in a long breath.
“It’s from the Control Room,” he whispers over his shoulder, “and it’s Jimmy calling for help. Let’s go.” He finishes before jumping down. I hop inside, jumping off on multiple steps at once.
A yelp escapes my mouth and I freeze, staring at the situation in disbelief.
“Come on here! She had lost a lot of blood!” Jimmy yells at me, shaking her unconscious body in an attempt to wake her up, probably.
Peter’s already there, looking around anxiously. I snap out of my surprise, and a sudden thought hits me.
Looking at my shirt, “I think we should use this.” I state taking it off.
“Great. Hand it.” Peter says stretching his hand. I toss it to him and straighten the T – shirt I was wearing under.
He rips it into half with his teeth and works on tying one of the parts around the wound to stop the bleeding. After securing it with the other part, he stands up.
“You carry her out and find a doctor. I’ll go deal with Harold.” He informs in his usual serious tone.
“But what about Jonathan? Where is he?” I inquire.
“Look there buddy,” Jimmy calls. I glance at him and he points behind me with his index finger. I turn around and unintentionally take a step backward. “He’s dead. She killed him.” He finishes. With my eyes still fixated on him, I start to take it all in. But... did the mission succeed?
I turn around and walk back to Jimmy, hearing the sound of Peter’s footsteps get fainter and fainter until it disappeared completely, indicating his heading out.
I bend down and sit on my knees.
“Did you stop it?” I ask him, taking her from his arms and placing mine below her shoulder and the other below the back of her knee.
“Yes, of course. I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for her; she took my bullet.”
His words left me staring at him in surprise. “What? What did you say?” I ask in disbelief.
He nods sadly and looks down. “She said that she couldn’t lose me too, not-”
“like Jo and Max.” I finish for him, absently shaking my head.
I knew she still feels guilty, I say to myself, she’ll never get that it isn’t her fault, never.
Shrugging my thoughts off, I grip her tighter and struggle on getting back on my feet. Halfway on standing up, my legs tremble, and I stumble a step backward before Jimmy holds me straight back.
“Thanks.” I murmur before heading to the stairs, my ears ringing with the sound of our footsteps and fast heart beats.
“If you spare him, we’ll tell you about your brother’s whereabouts.” Peter yells to Harold on the other side, 5 meters across from where we’re standing.
With Jimmy’s help, I could climb up the stairs and make it out without falling back, and seriously injuring the three of us. We found Peter trying to persuade him let go of his uncle without a fight. And till now, Zoey is lying on the hard ceramic with Jimmy and Ms. Emma by her side, while I and Peter think of a plan to save his uncle and find a way out.
After seconds of silence, Harold finally speaks up, “I suggest we start from you. And just so you know, my suggestions must never be rejected.”
“Why so? Were you a special element we haven’t heard of?” I reply with dripping sarcasm, crossing my arms and slightly smiling at the spark of confidence that filled me out of no where. Soon, it vanished and got filled with horror when he clenched his jaw and dug the end of the gun in the man’s head, making him force his eyes shut from the sudden rush of pain. My arms fall to the side, and I quickly lock my eyes with Peter’s. Just looking into them, I could read what he wanted to say, I could see his hesitation of whether he should trust him to save his uncle, or don’t, and have him – maybe all of us, too – dead.
Having a hard time to choose myself, I take a moment to think of the consequences of finding his brother dead, killed by one of us. What would he do? Slaughter us? What if he lets us go? But then, we might never know if we don’t make a move.
I suck in a deep breath and nod in assurance. He nods back and drops the gaze, turning it back to Harold.
“He’s in the Control Room. Now, would you let him go?” He shouts gruffly.
Harold chuckles silently before turning his face back to an expression so blank, it makes me uncomfortable, unsettled.
Without a word, he gestures to one of the robots to dive down. The robot beeps before quickly coming towards us, and letting the little hole swallow him in a second.
The next few minutes are filled with a tension so high, I almost felt my face crack under pressure – almost. But all our eyes are fixated on the entrance of the Base, waiting for the white floating body to rise out all of the sudden. Soon, the halls vibrate with loud and continuous beeps. We all had to cover up our ears, to avoid the sound from blasting our eardrums. But then it stops, and the robot comes back up.
It turns and goes back to its initial position.
“W15, What did you see?” Harold demands, breaking the silence.
The so called W15 makes a little beeping sound travel across the hall before announcing, “Jonathan is dead. Jonathan is dead.”
The robot doesn’t stop repeating this three words sentence over and over again. It just keeps ringing like the system is lagging or facing an error. Surprisingly though, Harold puts down his gun in a haze. He kicks the robot and it goes off, making us finally appreciate the immense silence. He motions for Mr. Gerald to follow before his eyes dart back to us, decreasing the distance that separated us few minutes ago, to merely 10 inches.
Glancing at the both of us, he sucks in a breath before letting the words of his mouth, “Thank you. Thanks to Zoey, for bringing all of us the moment we long awaited. Now that he’s dead, we shouldn’t trouble you anymore.” He says smiling before turning around and commands the others, “Our battle is over. The ruthless leaders lay lifeless on this Earth, and now that I am the one to take over the throne, I order you, all of the soldiers and robots, from rank 1 to rank 53, back off.” He pauses and they all rush down and out of the building. We all exchange looks of utter perplexity. How could that be possible? Was their an enmity between the brothers?
“From A01 to X48, back to your spaceships. Now.” He orders, and soon, they were all out of sight leaving the seven of us in the building, completely lost and confused, except for Harold and the unconscious Zoey.
He slowly turns back facing us.
“You must be wondering why would I suddenly turn the table, right?” he calmly says before adding a sincere smile.
We both just nod in response.
“Well, as you know, I’m the third brother, probably the youngest. But what you don’t know is, I’m the only different one. Meet the rebel of Xolina, the only one against the attacks and the murders, the need for power and territory expansion. I used to argue about it all the time with them, especially Jonathan who’s worse than his elder brother, and that’s why they never considered my suggestions and opinions in all matters, whether it’s war or everyday political problems. With Marcilus being dead, I feared Jonathan’s rule, and when you people showed up, I felt a hint of hope. It felt great finding someone brave enough to fight him. I-”
“But, why were you stopping us if you were on our team since the beginning?” Peter suddenly interrupts.
Agreeing with his point, I keep my eyes fixed on Harold, waiting for an answer.
He shifts on his feet, “I had to hide my rebellion, I would’ve had my throat sliced, but I helped you, secretly though. Who do you think gave Dr. Rodrick the passcode?” He finishes with a wide grin.
Filled with disbelief, surprise and joy at the same time, I smile for real after a long time. Welcoming it, I turn to look at Peter and find him smiling, too.
Harold clears his throat driving our attention back to him. “But now that your brave friend did what I couldn’t do, my job ends here. I should leave you fix what my brothers caused of a ruin, while I rebuild the morals of my nation.”
Without a thinking twice, I pull him in a tight hug, literally squeezing the life out of him, but I can’t help the sudden feeling of love and respect for this man take over me. How unbelievable this is! Totally marvellous!
I let go and he pulls both of us in a group hug, with Mr. Gerald joining in with a happy chuckle. Pulling back once more, his mouth curves into another smile before heading out, leaving us in utter haze from the complete twist.
Through the cheers of the merry citizens, we pass, all of us carrying Zoey to a safe corner.
“You guys need to get her a doctor.” Ms. Emma states before motioning us to lay her down. We slowly put her down on the light carpet of grass and straighten our backs.
I flex my muscles then relax them, wincing at the pain that pierces into my arms, probably from carrying her alone for most of the time.
“You’re right. Do you know someone we can get to?” Peter asks between breaths.
She shakes her head but quickly suggests, “I’m sure if you go out there and ask for help, you’ll find one.”
Accepting the suggestion, Peter and I force ourselves into the crowd of celebrating humans.
“HEY!” I shout, getting their attention ar once.
“We need a doctor. Is it any of you?” Peter calmly yet clearly, states our requirement.
Some of them shrug while others shake their heads. Soon after, a man dressed in blue, his blonde hair sticking with dust and his bronze skin covered with filth, runs to our direction until he’s exactly standing right in front of us.
“Who’s injured?.” He informs, his chest heaving with breaths.
“Zoey.” We both say in unison.
“Get her. I can help her in my tent, I’ve got all my instruments there.”
We nod, and with our faces lightened with joy and hope, we walk back to carry her to the doctor’s tent.
“What do you mean?” I ask him, feeling my heart reach my throat, panicking at what he’d just informed us.
With his eyes full of pity and sadness, he keeps them fixated at her body lying on the little bed. One can barely recognize from all the filth and blood she’s covered in.
“I meant exactly what I said. She lost a great amount of blood, she’s hardly breathing right now.” He says in a low murmur.
“So you’re saying she might not make it?” Peter question bitterly.
“Why don’t you take some of our blood? Doctors do this in the case of a rapid blood loss, don’t they?” I suggest, not giving the slightest care to hide the desperation in my voice. I can’t let her go away, not after all these struggles and days of not giving up, not after finally witnessing the fruits of our fights, not now, not when the sun is shining and everyone is celebrating. Not when she’s the one who made this happen. I won’t allow it, no matter what, whether it’s her or Peter. They’ve grown into something more than friends now; they’re family.
He shrugs then shakes his head. “Her blood is different, completely. Not a type I’ve ever come across in college. I don’t think any other type is eligible for donation.” He states hopelessly.
But his hopelessness is annoying, frustrating in a way that drives me to punch him in his face. I choose to stay quiet, scared of how I might react. Instead I share a look with Peter, and as quickly as it happened, we both turned back to him.
“Then take the risk, we’re both ready. Plus, you don’t know our blood type either, it might work.” Peter starts so calmly, I would’ve been surprised if I hadn’t known him.
He stands up and goes for finding something. Then he comes back with a syringe in his hand and smiles so lightly.
“Ready?” he asks before sitting back on the rock across from us.
“Yes.” Peter replies quite confidently, while I, after sucking in a breath to wash away my worry, nod in return.
He comes closer, and with a hand, he grips my arm right at the back of my elbow tightly, while with the other, he carefully inserts the needle in my flesh. I force my eyes shut but don’t feel anything more than a slight pinch. Opening my eyes, I find him taking the blood out of Peter with an other one. Cursing myself for being so stupid of how painful it is, I remember I’ve never done this before and shrug it off. Peter on the other side, flinched rather slightly than noticeable. The doctor gets back on his feet and hands us small cotton pieces. We accept them gladly and put them on our arms, right at the place where the needle was initially.
I turn my gaze to check out his progress. He checks her pulse and sits on the side of the bed shaking his head.
We sit around waiting for her body to respond, listening to the clicking sound of the doctor’s watch.
“If nothing happens in the next 15 minutes, we try injecting her with yours.” He mutters, breaking the silence out of nowhere and motioning with his head to Peter. Peter nods in return, while I lean back in my chair.
“What’s your name, by the way?” I utter, more to pass the time than to actually get to know him.
“Dr. Derek.” He answers in a low murmur, barely audible.
He says nothing more, indicating how uninterested he is in opening a conversation at the moment. I nod quietly and make my eyes wander about the inside of the tent. Dirty with little holes and burnt threads, a short rounded table lies beside the bed Zoey is lying on. Above the table are some syringes and needles, a shut down laptop and some bandages. Everything here is ruined and made out of temporary items; the bed is just two mattresses piled up together, the table stands on carton boxes and the tent is made by random pieces of cloth sewn together.
“It’s not working.” He informs out of no where, startling the both of us.
“Then inject her with the other one. Do something!” I yell at him, pushing the chair behind and running to her.
“I said it’s not working! We’re losing her!” he yells back.
I grit my teeth in anger and my hands ball into fists.
“And I said do something.” I insist, already losing my patience.
“Calm down both of you, I have an idea.” Peter speaks up, coming across from the both of us.
“What is it?” Dr. Derek asks, not bothering to hide his anxiousness.
“You mix the blood types. It may respond to the alien blood in her veins, at least that’s what Ms. Emma told me before coming out of the building.”
Something clicked in my mind as if I finally found the piece of the puzzle.
Ms. Emma. She’s a Xoliner too.
“Peter, what about getting the exact same complexion of blood from Ms. Emma?” I suggest folding my arms on my chest.
His eyes widen, “Why hadn’t I thought of this!” he exclaims before heading out.
Reaching out for her wrist, I check for her pulse. Still alive but her heart beats are accelerating. Panicking, I turn to look at Dr. Derek.
“Where did he go?” he asks.
“To get me.” Ms. Emma announces before rushing towards us with Peter following behind.
She takes a syringe and attaches a needle to it. Forcing her eyes shut, she digs it into her arm and pulls the blood out. Stumbling to the back, Peter holds her straight. Once the 5 inches syringe got filled, she snatches it out and tosses it to me before Peter drags to a chair.
I catch the syringe and quickly hand it to him. He accepts it gladly and injects the whole amount into her, before wiping her arm with a piece of cotton and wrapping it with a bandage. He listens to her heartbeats carefully and closely, before letting himself sit down on the floor next to the pile of mattresses.
“What’s wrong?” I ask in concern.
He takes in a huge gulp of air, “Her heart beats are even. It worked.” He replies in a tone full of hope.
Smiling in complete relief, I lean on the other side of the mattress.
And before I know it, a chuckle escapes my mouth from the disbelief of how everything turns out at the end.
The word roams in my mind, and I know it quite certainly, that it’s what caused the victory. It’s hope.