The training Bradley had to go through flew by. He learned all fighting techniques and defenses. He trained with Lucy until he was at her level of experience. He grew stronger and faster, and could pull off moves he never thought he could. He was at a level where he could fight Lucy with ease. It was quite the experience. The time came finally, time for Bradley to take on the maze. The maze was the portion all recruits had to pass in order to become scavengers. The best part, he was going to go do the maze with Lucy. Lucy had been attempting at the maze for a year but was never able to pass. But this would be different, this time they were guaranteed to pass.
Bradley met Lucy in the preparation room. "Good luck!" Bradley gave an encouraging smile. Lucy knew that Bradley was just being friendly, but after her many trials at the maze, she learned not to get her hopes up. But she smiled to make Bradley feel better. "You too. You're the one that's gonna need it!" She teased. A loud buzzer sounded signaling their entrance into the maze. "Let's do this."
Bradley thought he was being suave by gripping Lucy's hand, but she took it as a friendly gesture instead. They entered the large brass doors into the maze, and hopefully not their demise.
It was way bigger in person than Lucy showed him during his tour on his first day. The walls were ten feet tall, and looked like they could withstand a small nuclear bomb, which on second thought, they probably were built that way. "So, how did you get out every time you gave up?" Said Bradley. Lucy sighed, "Had to wait for someone to come in and guide me out."
"Yeah, let's not do that. Do you have something we can retrace if we do get lost." Asked Bradley, "No, we could however follow the trails already made. Look there's small indentations in the floor going in a line. We could follow this." She said pointing to the floor. Bradley and Lucy followed the trail for a little ways when they hit a fork on the road, "Great, two different roads. Oh! Look at this, there's more footprints going this way!" Said Lucy. Bradley looked at the two roads. One with more tracks and one with not so many, "Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled." Bradley said out loud. Lucy looked at him confused, "What?" Bradley explained his reasoning, "It's a poem I used to live by. It basically means don't take the road to being a follower and take the one to be a leader." Lucy nodded. "Ah, I get it now. So take the road less traveled?" She asked. "Yup. If I know a maze, it'll put things to throw you off. Let's go." Bradley responded. The two walked down deeper in the maze. The air was chilling as if to simulate being outside. It certainly did the trick for Bradley, he was rubbing his hands together for warmth. Suddenly a dummy popped out of the wall. Lucy grabbed the pistol at her side, and shot twice. There was a gaping hole where the dummy's forehead was. "That thing was loaded the whole time!?" Bradley exclaimed.
"Just an extra precaution. No mercy on your enemies." Said Lucy.
The two of them continued walking through the many twists and turns of the maze in what they thought was the right direction. "It's quiet," Bradley muttered. "Too quiet." Of course, Bradley had to go and open his big mouth. He watched as the room filled with yellow gas. Lucy suddenly started choking and bent over, clutching her chest for air. "What *cough* is this stuff!?" Bradley was still a little ways away from Lucy, which was why he wasn't coughing in pain. "I don't know! They must have added it recently if you haven't seen it before!" Bradley looked around helplessly for anything he could do. They hadn't brought any gas masks because they didn't know they would need them. Lucy was on the ground now, "Lungs, *cough* burning, *cough* help..."
Watching Lucy try to crawl away from the toxic smoke pained Bradley even more. He couldn't let Lucy suffer because he had done nothing. Acting on pure instinct, Bradley snatched a grapple gun from his pack and shot it near Lucy. "Grab on!" Lucy reached for the rope and when Bradley thought she was holding on, pressed the button to retract the rope and threw it up onto one of the ten foot walls. Lucy shot upwards and grabbed onto the top of the wall. Normal oxygen filled Lucy's lungs. She took a few deep breaths then spoke, "Thanks and all, but how am I gonna get down?" Unfortunately, she was right. The entire hallway had filled with the yellow smoke. She couldn't come down this way, and Bradley couldn't move forward. "How about you jump down on the other side where the gas is gone, and I'll backtrack and try to find you!" Lucy didn't like it, but it was the only reasonable option. "Okay. Don't die on me, I still owe you one." Bradley thought she was joking, but there was no time to tell. She leaped out of Bradley's sight.
And he was alone.
Bradley had never been genuinely scared in his life. He wasn't scared when he fell off the monkey bars in elementary school. He wasn't scared when he accidentally on purpose watched a horror film. He wasn't even scared when he fell into a river by his old house. But now alone in this dark and cold maze, Bradley was really truly horrified. But he had to keep everything under control, for Lucy's sake.
He knew she couldn't stand being alone. She needed him, and he would do anything to help her get through this.
Turning a few corners in the direction he thought he should go, a sudden thought struck Bradley. Was it possible to die here in the maze? Would they let that happen? Or do they trust us enough to leave us unsupervised? Bradley considered this, and figured that he really didn't want to find out what would happen if he screwed up. A few minutes later, he hit a dead end. He was about to turn around, when he noticed a carved square in the center of the wall. He got closer and realized that it was not a wall, but a door. The square was some sort of key combination. A puzzle. If he could figure it out, he might find Lucy faster! On the square, there were jagged shapes that looked like pieces from Tetris. Okay, different shapes, different colors, what was wrong with it? Bradley counted the number of different colors: 5, and the number of different shapes: 5. There were four slots left for more pieces, but Bradley didn't see any lying around. "Think, Bradley, think!" He said to himself. "What if I broke some pieces in half?" The pieces were scored along a line as if meant to be broken. "I have to do this carefully, I only have one shot."
He slowly took out a green piece shaped like a staircase, broke it, and put half in the top left corner so the stairs pointed down and to the right. He held the other half at his side. Taking out a blue trapezoid, he snapped it and put the pieces on opposing sides at the bottom. Everything fit perfectly, but the colors were mismatched. If he switched the green and yellow pieces, they wouldn't fit right into their new spots. The only color that looked okay was red in the top right corner.
Inspecting the other colors, Bradley realized his mistake. The red ones had a square shaped piece turned on its side like a diamond in the middle facing the opposite direction. Bradley continued the pattern with the rest of the colors. Rainbow lights lit up at the sides of the puzzle and the huge doors swung open. "Yes!" He cheered, and dashed through the opening.
It was only when she came to the pit of lava that Lucy realized just how long it was since she was in the maze. Walking silently along, Lucy was wondering just how long her nerves could hold out before she went insane. Bradley gave everything a comfortable atmosphere, without him, she lost focus and control. All of these thoughts jumbled in her brain as she turned a corner. SHREEK! A panel slid open in front of her revealing a king size pit of lava! Lucy fell back, adrenaline coursing through every vein. She stood up breathing hard. The pit expanded to the other end of the corridor she needed to get to. It looked about half a football field long, but only as narrow as the rest of the paths. Following the edges was a short ledge that Lucy thought she could walk on. Her feet were bigger than the ledge...by far. She tripped and nearly fell in the lava. It was slow going, but she inched her way across the entire pit without getting singed. Finally on the other side, Lucy looked back and the panel closed, hiding the lava. She rolled her eyes, "So NOW it closes!" She heard pounding footsteps behind her and spun around.
"LUCY!" An obviously excited Bradley came bolting down a side hallway toward her. She was relieved to see him, partly because he hadn't died like, she asked. Bradley slid to a stop in front of her. "What's up?" Lucy crossed her arms. "Not much, just crawling across a pit of lava. How about you?" Bradley's reply was similar, "Nothing like that, just had to solve a puzzle that opened a door. Where to now?" Lucy looked around. A blue light emanated from the ceiling in the direction of the center. Lucy pointed, "That way. The crystal at the center always glows blue when you are close." Taking slight calculations in his head, Bradley said, "I think we can run for it, what do you say?" Lucy smiled, "I say why not?" The two of them ran straight for the blue light that signified the end of the game. As the two of them were running, Lucy remembered something a long time ago from her past, but she couldn't quite remember the details. A few seconds away from the finish, Lucy reached over and grabbed Bradley's hand.
"Together!" She yelled.
They put their hands on the crystal at the same time.
All of the walls slid away into the floor. Confetti and balloons and fireworks shot up everywhere. A big television screen displayed their completion time: 19 minutes and 45 seconds. Not a record, but enough to pass.
Then the best part of Lucy's day happened.
Bradley reached over and hugged her. She felt warm and special and important. And for those few seconds, nothing else mattered.