We should have planned the whole thing way more than we did. Three of us against a mansion full of soldiers? Not a smart move.
We started out okay, tracking Jackson and Collin through the town, down another set of tunnels, into an abandoned building before climbing a ladder and finding ourselves in stark white surroundings. I used to love the colour white, but not anymore. I felt chilled to the bone walking through them.
We were stupid not considering the possibilities of cameras, well, we did. Amelia would shoot them whenever she spotted one, but of course that alerted security and we soon rounded a corner to find a whole group of them ready to fire.
After that, we spent a good time sprinting around the mazes of corridors, trying to dodge bullets as we went. At one stage I thought Toby was shot thanks to an epic skip, fall and roll, but he regained his footing and dragged me towards a hatch, muttering something about the surface,
Eventually, we found ourselves here, in this luxurious room. I only looked around at a second before my gaze shifted to the bruised and battered girl who was sprawled on the couch, looking at us with wide eyes.
I wanted to think it was someone else, no, I wanted to know. So I did our signal, hoping the girl would look at me blankly, but her eyes widened and I had to look away. I’m not sure I can do this.
The sound of soldier’s boots hitting the floor made me jump away from the doorframe out of reflex before slamming it shut, making Amelia and Toby jump.
After I bolt the door, I turn around to survey the scene properly.
Amelia’s got her gun pointed at her father, mouth in a firm line while Toby points his in the direction of whimpering.
“Aren’t you going to shoot them?” we heard a woman’s voice speak up from behind the couch. “I can’t protect myself and you’re meant to be my guard.”
Jackson just glares at us, a promise of pain in his eyes. If we don’t die in these next crucial moments, he’ll certainly kill us later.
“Can’t shoot them,” he tells the woman gruffly, holding his hands up slowly. “Three to one is not good odds.”
Slowly, the woman climbs to her feet and I have to stop myself for gasping.
Blonde hair, blue eyes, figure of a goddess, it’s hard to believe that a woman like her could cause us so much destruction.
“The other soldiers will be here in moments,” she tells us coldly, eyes skimming over each of us. “I don’t need to guess who you are.”
My eyes, which I try to keep focused on her, are drawn to Eliza who still watches us. If it weren’t for the rise and fall of her chest, I’d think her dead. She hasn’t moved one inch since we burst in, not even a twitch of the finger.
My stomach curls and I quickly press a hand to it. Let’s not vomit now. I can’t let her down at a time like this.
Some people would say that if I shot my friend, I was never their friend in the first place. I have to disagree. To protect your loved ones, sometimes if you have to give up bits of your soul. So it’s now, as more and more soldiers prepare outside the door, that I quickly click the safety off behind my back and try to prepare myself mentally for what I’m about to do. I search Eliza’s eyes, for anything that will convince me not to do this, because I don’t want to, not at all, but all I can find is a look of pure torture, screaming for my help.
I’ll end it for you Eliza.
“Ma’am!” a soldier outside the door yells and I jump to the side, pumping into Toby who quickly wraps an arm around my waist. “On your count, we’ll shoot down the door.”
The woman smiles at us triumphantly and opens her mouth to speak when she stops. There’s a loud crack that makes me flinch as the gun butt connects with her skull, making her eyes roll back as she slumps to the ground, hunched over herself. Jackson stands above her, sliding the gun back into his belt before whirling on us.
“Get out of here now and take Eliza. When I get home, so help me Amelia you’ll...”
“I know,” she interrupts as we move forward, me and Toby towards Eliza and her to hug her father.
“What happens now?” I ask Toby as I smooth Eliza’s hair back from her face, trying not to be sick when clumps of blood stick to my hand. “We won’t be getting out here alive.”
“We can still try,” he frowns as he prods her with his finger. “Why isn’t she moving?”
“Drugged her,” Jackson declares, shoving Amelia towards one of the windows.
“Ma’am?” the soldier yells again. “Ma’am, we’re going to...”
“No!” Jackson barks and I hear murmuring as I help Amelia open the long closed window. “Come in now and they’ll shoot us!”
“Sir, what do we do?”
They’re scared, I realise. Just as much as the rest of us.
They’re human, too.
“How on earth do we survive that?” Amelia squeaks and I look out the window to see what she means.
It’s a three storey drop which might be okay if it weren’t for the fact Eliza will have to be carried. I turn around to say just as much to find Toby already waiting, Eliza in his arms.
“I’ll jump with her. You girls go first.”
“Dad,” Amelia beckons to her father who’s shouting orders at the soldier. “Come with us, please.”
“No, baby girl,” he whispers. “For you to live, I have to do what any father would do.”
“Alice, go,” Toby whispers in my ear and shoves me at the window. “Unless you want to shoot her and have us all die, get a move on.”
I quickly sprint to hug Jackson goodbye before running back to the window, climb over the sill and let myself drop.
“Ugh,” I huff as I roll forward so the weight of the fall doesn’t crush my bones.
I move out of the way as Toby prepares himself, sitting on the edge with Eliza curled like a child in his arms. He’ll be hurt, we both know that, but he’s willing to make the risk.
I love him.
I hear the crunch when he hits the ground, rolling sideways as a hiss escapes his lips.
Eliza’s rolled to the side, away from him, but she looks okay. I keep my focus on Toby.
“Toby, get up,” I beg and yank his arm. “Please, Toby.”
“My ankle,” he moans, but tries to pull himself to his feet, hissing again when his injured ankle hits the ground. “I don’t... I don’t know if I can get far carrying her.”
“I’ll help you,” I plead, bending down to scoop Eliza into my arms, stumbling to the side when I feel how heavy she is.
The shouting above us is getting louder as the soldiers inside panic. As I transfer Eliza into Toby’s arms, holding his arm so he doesn’t topple over, I look up in time to see Amelia hurl herself from the window, flipping in the air so when she hits the ground in a roll, she’s immediately on her feet.
“They know,” her face is sickly pale as she sways on her feet. “They know he...”
I snap around to see soldiers pointing out a window, guns raised.
“GO!” I scream and than all hell breaks loose.
The term “running for your life” is quite the right description when your stumbling along, trying to doge bullets. I use my gun to fire back and it’s in one of those moments as I’m looking over my shoulder to shoot whilst propelling Toby along that I see Jackson.
He’s guarding our escape window literally with his life. I can’t count how many times he’s shot before he finally falls, but it has to be at least fifteen. The streak of blood that’s left behind is probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. That’s him still protecting us as we fight to just get around the corner of wherever we are so we can make our way home.
Amelia saw her dad die, too. That much is evident when she meets my eyes, looking like she wants to collapse. Her feet don’t seem to be working properly so she stumbles multiple times.
“Go,” I shove Toby around the first corner and he stumbles a little, putting more and more weight on his injured foot. He listens though, not stopping. Good. He knows I’d kill him if he gave up now.
Fight the fight for your life.
“We have to move,” I whirl on Amelia, running towards her and grabbing her hand. “Copy my steps.”
She’s crying awfully hard so I doubt she can see, but I keep pushing her to though. When she stumbles, I hoist her up. When she practically falls to the ground, I’m the one who drags her back up again.
We’ve made it around the first corner now and I realise we’re actually still inside the Chocolate Society’s main town. Somehow I imagined this building of there’s to be in some secure and isolated place, surrounded by guards so no one dares come in, but no. These horrible people are right in with the rest of us, probably laughing at those that walk passed without so much as a glance. Why should we suspect anything? We are after all equal, aren’t we not?
I totally forgot that I’m no longer in the get-up Toby and Amelia dressed me in to rescue Eliza so you can imagine the peoples faces when they see me.
Some stumble backwards, falling over themselves while others shriek and stop dead in their tracks. I force my dead feet to pound the ground harder and faster as some make a move towards Amelia and I.
“They’ll follow us,” she says around a sob. “Where’s... where’s Toby?”
“Right there,” I nod grimly in the direction. He’s slowed a great deal since I moved him around the corner, practically falling with each step. “I need to help him, Amelia. Please, please keep moving.”
“I will,” she promises, but still stumbles. “I won’t let my father die in vain.”
I used to think it was such a cheesy line, but it’s so very not. Let’s not let a good man like Jackson die so we can all give up and follow in his wake.
If it weren’t for me, no one, and I mean no one, would be dead or even in danger. If it weren’t for stupid Toby on the sidewalk, practically begging for my attention, I’d still be oblivious.
“CLEAR THE WAY!” we hear a loud voice boom and the three of us stop dead cold for a second.
“Is that a,” I ask, but am broken off by Toby who quickly puts his weight against me, hobbling forward as he does.
“Go, go, go now. There’s an alley just up ahead. What ever you do, neither of you stop.”
He doesn’t have to say it twice.
Amelia sprints ahead of us, cutting a line through the gaping crowd that are still trying to figure what the hell is going on. Now, with the soldiers pounding behind us, truth seems to dawn on their faces and pretty soon, we’re again running down a nearly clear street, giving the soldiers open view.
However, there are still a few that remain, staring at me as I run passed. I run into one girl while trying to aim at the soldiers behind us who nearly sends all four of us, Toby and Eliza included, sprawling to the ground.
“You’re different,” she grips my face in her hands and I try to pull away. “How? How?!”
“Toby, go,” I tell him and try to pull away from the girl again. “Look, I need to get out of here right now.”
“No,” she grips me like a vice. “No I won’t let you until you tell me how.”
“Ask them,” I finally pull free, climbing back to my feet and pointing my gun at the soldiers who are yelling at the people to clear so they can shoot. “They’re different too.”
Turns out, a whole heap of people were listening to me talk and so, we’re given another round of protection as the stumble towards the soldiers, voices raised in question.
“Right here,” Toby’s waiting for me at the edge of an alley. “We can do this.”
It’s just a short jog, straight downwards. Amelia’s already disappeared from sight, yelling at us to hurry up.
Toby drops Eliza down to Amelia before clambering down slowly as I stand guard over him, urging him on,
“You had better kiss me for this,” he tells me tiredly as he disappears from view.
“You can count on that,” I respond, just as tiredly. I can feel my whole body starting to shake.
By the time I make my way down the tunnel, the yells of the people above are amazingly loud. It seems many more than before have joined this sort of protest.
Looks like, and I hope beyond hope, the Chocolate Society is going to crumble.