[40] Sage

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"Deirdre!" Jake roars, turning in a circle. 

My desperate cries join his. "Deirdre! Deirdre!"

"She's gone," Jake says frantically, his voice slightly hoarse. "I screwed up, I screwed up, oh god."

"Stop! We don't have time to talk about whose fault it was!" I snap, making sure a round is chambered in my gun and running a hand over my hair. "We need to find her." I don't even bother to move backwards as we take off. We'll move faster if I'm facing the right direction.

I hold my weapon at the ready as Jake and I dash further into the maze. We never give up our frantic cries: "Deirdre! DEIRDRE!"

We get no response for the first few heart-stopping minutes of our search. Then, finally, a plaintive scream. "Here! I'm he - " It is quickly cut off. I don't let myself wonder why.

Jake and I exchange a quick glance and run in the direction of Deirdre's voice. We have to backtrack several times as we hit dead ends and argue over which way would take us closer to her voice, but finally, she manages to shout again.

"I'm here!"

My eyes are burning. Why are my eyes burning? Ignoring the oddity and focusing on the task at hand, I choke out as we run, "At least she doesn't sound panicked.She can't be hurt if she's not panicking." I think of her trepidation at jumping into the fathomless water during the seventh Trial. Even her murders had not taken away her ability to feel fear. She would sound much more frantic if she was in real trouble.

Wouldn't she?

Finally, the maze walls widen and we burst into a clearing. Ahead of us, down a corridor, we see Deirdre, standing with her back to us. "Deirdre!" we yell simultaneously. She does not turn or give any other sign that she has heard us.

I dash forward, reaching the child before Jake and promptly bouncing off of a solid, invisible wall. Shrieking with pure rage, I hammer my fists against it to no avail. The wall is solid and likely noise-blocking, seeing as Deirdre doesn't even flinch.

A horrible thought crosses my mind. I step back from the glass and survey the child. I can't quite catch my breath again until I see her hands closing into fists. Okay. She's not dead.

Yet.

Jake shoves me aside, the roughest thing he's ever done to me. He pounds against the glass with all of his strength, just once. "Deirdre!" he yells so loudly that a vein on his neck bulges and I flinch.

"She can't hear us," I whisper, trying to hold myself together and figure out what to do. "Give me a boost."

I step into one of his hands (they're so big that he only needs to slightly support me with the other) and he raises me slowly upward. I trace my hands up the wall, but the glass continues, higher and higher.

"Dammit!" I shriek, pounding on the glass with frustration when Jake has lifted me as high as he can. "Put me down." Jake does so and barely hesitating, I shoot at the glass, a safe distance above Deirdre's head. The glass cracks.

Jake pulls out his gun as well and starts trying to shoot at the same place that I hit. I follow his lead. We are ruthless, quick and stone-faced as our guns crack again and again.

An Albino steps out in front of Deirdre, who had just started to turn her head as if she heard a small noise. He, too, is holding a gun.

Deirdre starts shaking her head desperately and I know that she is defenseless, or the Albino would already be dead. She presses herself against the glass completely as if to get further away from her attacker.

"No - no!" she screams as the Albino raises his gun. Her voice is strangely muffled even though we are standing mere inches away from her.

Finally, a shard of glass about two inches long falls out of the wall. "Deirdre!" we both instantly scream. Please, please, please, please - 

Deirdre begins to turn.

And the Albino fires.

He hits her in her bulletproof vest several times, knocking her back against the glass with each impact. But she would have survived that. She would have been badly bruised, maybe even have had a cracked rib, but otherwise alive.

But he proceeds to shoot her in the head. Once, twice, three times.

Jake and I can do nothing except watch as Deirdre's tiny body is flung about with the force of the bullets and she quickly crumples to the ground like a paper doll. A paper doll gushing red.

Even killing insane amounts of innocent people, it never truly hit me how much blood comes out of a person when you shoot them in the head.

There's quite a lot.

I am incapable of doing anything except making a shocked choking noise. Jake suddenly attacks the glass, punching it again and again, fracturing the now weak surface. I grab his arm, trying to get him to stop as the Albino calmly walks away. But his fist keeps throwing itself forward and back, shearing open his knuckles until his blood dots the dark ground beneath us.

"Stop!" I finally scream brokenly, and he does. He sinks to his knees and rests his forehead against the glass where Deirdre's head had been pressed, and where the bloodstain is now thick and dark. And then, he starts to sob.

I fall to my knees to join him, pressing myself into his side and letting the tears run silently down my face.

For the first time in years, for the first time in possibly forever, I feel true agony.

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