Chapter Sixty

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The hallways were all pitch black. The palms of my hands pressed against the cool tiled floor. It was much colder out here than it had been back in my room. The route ahead of me was nearly invisible as my eyes continued to try to adjust to the darkness. I stayed as still as possible, kneeling in the middle of the quiet, deserted hallway.

It was 1:24 AM. It was time to get out.

All I had to do was wait for Mace.

Our plan was to meet up in one of the branching hallways off of the cafeteria. After that, we'd check if the coast was clear, and follow through with Abi's idea of going into the vent. It was late so we weren't expecting anybody to bother us. Still, we had to be careful.

A tapping sound became audible behind me. I turned around immediately, pushing myself farther against the wall in case it was somebody who wasn't Mace. He was supposed to be meeting me at 1:30, and it was quite possible that he had planned on getting here early like I had. In my mind, I was almost positive it was him. Nobody else had come to bother me yet which allowed me to infer that nobody else was up at this hour.

The tapping paused as I waited for someone to appear. I was beginning to be able to make out the lines separating the tiles on the floor. I'd only been able to make it to this hallway using my hands and the vague things I could see in the dark. 

I heard the footsteps come alive again and suddenly I saw him. A dark figure hovered at the end of the hallway and I was barely able to see, but I definitely recognized him. It was Mace standing alone, waiting for me.

I stood up from my position, careful not to make too much noise and walked towards him. He seemed surprised at my sudden appearance. " nearly scared me to death," he whispered in as low a voice as possible. His eyes were wide.

"Sorry," I murmured back before turning around to look down the hall towards our goal. "You ready?"

He nodded slowly. I could tell he was just as nervous as I was.

Now there was only one part of our plan left to complete. We were prepared for everything else. "You have the radio, right?" I asked him. The radio was the communication device Abi had given to us at the end, the very last piece in our idea. It was how we would communicate with the rest of our room and the other people in the Snow Society. We had to get everyone in our group out, or I wouldn't go at all. I couldn't imagine leaving Asten, January, and the rest of them behind. We were all together in this, and I wouldn't allow them to be stuck here while Mace and I escaped. Once we reached the other side of the vent leading to the outside world and knew that the plan would work, we would inform all of them to follow in our footsteps and meet us there before finally escaping the complex.

Mace paused before nodding again. His hesitation concerned me a bit, but I trusted him. I'd known him long enough to be able to trust that he would never hurt me or anyone else that we knew.

"Good," I exhaled before turning and walking down the hallway. It was silent in the complex with the exception of our footsteps. I moved down the hall with Mace following me before stopping at the end where it lead into the cafeteria hallway. I peeked around the edge of the corner to see if anyone was coming. There was not a single person in sight.

"We're all clear," I whispered to Mace as he nodded his understanding. So far, things were going well.

I jogged down into the hallway and towards the vent that was big enough for anyone to fit into. It was screwed in place just as we'd expected. Mace pulled out his screwdriver and got to work as I watched either end of the hallway, keeping watch in case anyone decided to come by.

It only took a few minutes for Mace to pull off the vent and place it to the side. He looked up at me and nodded his head in the direction of the vent, silently questioning if I'd like to go first. I nodded back and dropped to my knees next to him. A breeze blew out from the dark hole in the wall. Ignoring it, I started to crawl inside. It was easier than I'd expected, and soon I was far into the maze of metal.

It wasn't difficult to follow the cool air. The more I crawled, the colder it got. The contrast between our warm rooms and the outside snow was huge; I almost was wishing to be back in bed. I threw these wishes away in my mind. Nothing could distract me right now.

Finally, after ten minutes of crawling through endless darkness, I could see moonlight dripping in through an opening. I crawled even faster towards it, knowing I'd found the way out. My hands grabbed the cold metal as I waited for Mace to catch up.

"This is it," I whispered excitedly. He came closer and pressed his own hand against the metal before pulling out the same screwdriver from earlier. I looked at him in confusion. Had he forgotten about calling the rest of our group? Unless he was planning on doing that after unscrewing the vent.

Even so, I grabbed his wrist. It was better to ask anyway to make sure. He stopped moving at my touch and looked at me. "Shouldn't we get the others?" I asked.

He stared at me for a couple seconds, not saying anything. And then he pulled his wrist gently away from me and began to work on unscrewing the vents once more, acting like I hadn't spoken a word. He finished with one corner before I spoke again. " have the radio, right? And you told them all to wait for your signal to come?"

He let out an annoyed sigh as he worked on the next screw. For a second, it seemed like he wasn't going to respond again. And then he spoke. "Don't worry about them right now, Calestia. We have to get out."

Before I knew it, I'd pushed him away from the vent and knelt between him and the route to the outdoors. "What do you mean by 'don't worry about them right now'?" I asked angrily. He wasn't telling me something and I had a bad idea of what it might be.

"I mean...," he said through gritted teeth as he mirrored my annoyance. "Don't worry about them okay? We have to get out. That's what's important."

"And they're not?"

He stared me down, as if he expected me to just agree with him and move to the side. "I didn't say that. But you know as well as I do that an army of people parading down the halls and into this vent will be so obvious it's bound to get us caught. They'll be fine here. They seem happy enough."

I was almost tempted to slap him I was so frustrated by how much he didn't seem to care about leaving people behind. "No. I will not accept that. We can't just leave people behind."

"I know. But I also know that this is what's best for all of us. So move," he replied.

"I can't believe you," I whispered back, still trying not to attract attention even with all of my anger. I stood my ground. I was too desperate to save all of us. And maybe I shouldn't be. Maybe Mace was right and I should just let them be, but I couldn't.

Mace pushed past me and started to quickly unscrew the last two screw holding the vent in place. "Mace!" I whisper shouted, too shocked by his sudden movement to even fight against it. In seconds, he had removed the vent and shoved the screwdriver back in his pocket. We were now subject to the full force of the outside world.

Mace looked back at me and time seemed to pause. I could see in his eyes what he was about to do. It was a bad idea. We were supposed to wait to make sure Abi had distracted the guards.

But I couldn't do anything about it.

Because Mace climbed out of the vent before I could say another word to him. Before I could even go after him and stop him. He hit the snow and took off at a sprint.

I climbed out after him, only able to think of how bad it would be if there were still guards up top. I felt my boots hit the cold ground and I almost fell. Mace nearing a quarter way across the clearing that surrounded the complex. The tall trees were his goal. I wasn't sure what mine was anymore except to keep everyone alive and safe.

Adrenaline pounding, I started my own sprint across the snow, after him. He couldn't get hurt. I just had to hope nothing bad was going to happen...all I had to do was reach him...

A loud familiar bang rang out across the clearing.

I froze in horror as I stared ahead at Mace, not too far ahead of me despite his head start.

He fell to the ground as the bullet from above hit him.

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