Chapter Sixty-Eight

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I couldn't tell how long I ran for.

I just knew I had to get as far away from the complex as possible. There was no way to tell if the people shooting had come after me, or if they'd just given up. I doubted they'd just let it go.

The more I ran the more difficult it became. The snow wouldn't stop falling and as it fell, it piled up and made it harder to walk through. That was one of my least favorite aspects about it: how hard it was to run.

I felt like any second I could trip. The trees passed by me and finally, I forced myself to stop.

I heaved in deep breaths, trying to figure out where I was. I needed a landmark, or something. Trees surrounded me on all sides, towering above me. Their branches were accented with touches of white snow, whiter than even the clouds above my head.

I could hear the wind whistling past me and through my hair. It was only getting colder. I had to find some kind of shelter before it became so late that I couldn't see.

I was about to continue walking, when suddenly I heard the click of the safety of a gun being turned off. I froze, mid-step, not daring to move any further.

I couldn't see who was behind me, but I could hear soft thuds as the person took quick steps towards me. There weren't any weapons on me that I could use to fight the person. I hoped that maybe I'd be able to steal a gun off the soon-to-be soldier coming up behind me, but I didn't have much trust in my combat abilities. I had started training in the complex, but I hadn't become good enough that I'd be able to successfully take on somebody else who'd been in it longer than me.

So it seemed the only way I was getting out of this, would be if the person was newer than I was. And the problem with that was that there had barely been any new kids since we'd entered.

It was hopeless. Unless I tried catching them by surprise.

As the person came around my shoulder, I whipped out my elbow and slammed it into their jaw. I heard a loud crack as our bones hit and I winced at the pain that shot up my elbow. But I wasn't done. I spun around and swung my fist at their face, hoping it would hit the same spot my elbow had.

But the person caught my wrist just in time.

"Holy hell, man....," Axel mumbled as he grabbed his bloodied chin. "You need to calm down...."

I froze and felt my mouth drop open. Out of everyone I'd expected it to be, I hadn't been expecting him. "What...are you doing here?" I asked, my eyes wide.

"Attempting to save you...but apparently that didn't work out as well as I hoped," he said, obvious annoyance in his tone.

"Sorry." I pulled my arm back and away from him, feeling embarrassed that I hadn't even checked who it was first. "But how did you....?"

"I was one of the first ones done. They sent me out here immediately and I was in the front row. When I saw you, I knew that it wasn't any ordinary protection. You're welcome, by the way." He shoved his gun in his back pocket. He seemed more than a literal stressed out.

"Thank you...," I said belatedly, but he wasn't paying attention anymore. It seemed like he was totally out of it now, just looking at the surrounding environment. I wasn't sure if he was trying to take it in or if he was genuinely looking for something.

"So, you just happened to notice me and decided you'd turn off your safety when you were directly behind me?" I asked, still questioning why he'd done that.

"That was an accident." He didn't sound too convincing. I rolled my eyes and decided to just go with it.

"So, what now? Did you actually have a plan besides sprinting after me and scaring me half to death?"

"Honestly, no. I was just trying to be nice to you. And it also kind of hit me that I had to get out of there. We all do," he said. He was right. Now that it was him and me alone in the snowy forest, I realized how badly we needed to get everyone else out. Especially Asten. He seemed like he needed medical help the last I saw him. I didn't know what they were doing to them in there in the room, but I had a bad feeling about it.

"What was the room like?" I asked, hoping part of my question would be answered. I could only remember the chair and then being kicked out of the complex and nearly executed.

"I was on a chair. They injected me with something. It wasn't very eventful." I'd consider that eventful. Injections reminded me of Claudia and John, and that was a place I didn't want to be reminded of.

I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest to hold in heat. The snow was getting worse. We really did need to find shelter. Otherwise we'd probably freeze to death.

"We should continue walking then..," I said, looking in the direction where I'd originally been going. "We need to rest. And then when it stops snowing we can try to get the rest of them out."

I wasn't sure how I felt being stuck outside with Axel. He was probably the one person I got along the least with. We were too different and I felt like he didn't trust me at all, even after all that we'd been through. There was nothing I could do to change it. I was stuck with him, and this was how it would be until we freed the rest of them.

Axel nodded, and the two of us began walking through the snow.

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