Chapter 8:

The wooden table has been pushed into one corner and the two chairs have been tossed aside. One of The Commander's personal guards is holding Will upright by his hair as another lands a roundhouse kick to Will's side. When they see you enter, they drop Will, give a respectful salute to The Commander, and exit the room.

At the sound of the door slam, Will lifts his head and looks at you. His face is a mass of bruises. He has a long scratch along his cheekbone. His eyes find yours, and you can see the pain and torment.

You fight to maintain your composure. Will tries to stand but falls, clutching his side. He remains on the floor for awhile, panting with exertion. He begins to cough. When he takes his hand away from his mouth, you can see that it's covered in blood.

"Tanya," he pleads. "Tanya. Help me."

You stay silent, not trusting your voice. You hate what your have to do, but you know you must. To save him. To save everyone.

"Help yourself," you say finally. "Besides, I'd only make it worse. Isn't that what you just told me?"

"I didn't—" Will breaks off into a coughing fit. "I didn't--mean that." He gasps for air, pain contorting his face with every breath. "I—was only—acting. The Commander—forced me to."

"Really?" you say, forcing your voice to drip with sarcasm. "I never would have guessed. It's not like you slapped me or anything." You turn to face the wall.

"Look—"

"I don't want your apologies," you interrupt angrily. "In fact, I don't even want to see you anymore. Lucky for me, I don't have to."

"What are you—talking about?" Will says.

You whirl to face him. "Look at what I'm wearing! Don't you recognize it? And I thought YOU were supposed to be the smart one. Seems The Commander had me chose the wrong person."

"You're—you're—with CHAOS?" Will finally has managed to stand. He leans heavily against one wall.

"Yes, I am. I was sent to ITEM 4:12 to get inside information and new recruits. You were on the top of my list. Obviously, I failed. Oh well."

Will looks at you, his gaze steady. "You are a horrible liar," he says. "We need to work on that."

All pretenses abandoned, you rush over to Will and slip an arm under his shoulders. You gently lower him into one of the chairs.

"I think one of my ribs is broken," Will says. He slowly rolls up one side of his shirt. When you place your hand on his side, it feels warm. It's also beginning to swell.

"We need to get you to a hospital," you say, lightly prodding his side.

"We may not get the chance." Will grimaces. "There's no way the both of us can get out of here. I'm too injured."

"I'm not abandoning you," you say vehemently. "You'll be killed!"

A light sparks in Will's eyes. "Not if I'm already dead. I've got a plan…"

Minutes later, two guards enter the room.

"You," one says. "Get up." He brandishes his gun at you, as if to make it perfectly clear.

You look up at the guards from your position on the floor. Your gaze then drops back to your lap. Will's head lays motionless, cradled in there.

"Get up!" shouts the guard, more impatient this time.

"He's dead," you say quietly. "There's no point in killing me now. He's—" you break off, your voice cracking.

"Doesn't matter if he's dead," says the second guard. "We won't say it again. Get. Up. Now."

You gently lower Will's head to the floor and stand, placing yourself between the guards and one of the walls.

"Come here," When you hesitate, he cocks his gun, the click echoing in the silence.

Cautiously, you step forward, toward the door. After three steps, the guards spring on you, one twisting your arms behind your back. He yanks down, forcing you to your knees. The other removes something from his pocket. It's a hypodermic needle, filled with a cloudy liquid.

"I forgot," he says. "The boss wants to see you. One way or another." He lunges toward your arm, but you dodge away, throwing him off balance and dragging the guard behind you sideways. The pressure on your arms releases and you quickly rip yourself free of his grasp. You spring up and knock the needle out of the other guard's grasp. Twisting your body around, you follow through, sending a fist crashing into his jaw.

As you land the punch, there is a deafening boom. Even as your opponent falls to the ground, unconscious, pain rips into your body. You cry out and fall, clutching your torn bicep.

The second guard is holding his gun, which is still smoking. He lowers it, so it is trained on your heart.

"This time," he says, "I won't miss."

The gun booms for a second time. You flinch, but the agony does not come. Realizing you've shut your eyes, you open them.

The guard is sprawled on the floor, unconscious, pinned there under a boot. Will's boot. Dust trickles down from the bullet hole in the ceiling. Stiffly, Will reaches out and takes the guard's gun, slipping it into his utility belt. He turns and, seeing the blood seeping from your arm, rushes over. He pulls your hand away from your arm and tears a piece of material from one of the guards' uniforms. He begins to wind it around your arm. It hurts, but Will is gentle.

"Who's taking care of who now?" you joke, trying to take your mind off the pain. Will smiles, but begins coughing again almost immediately. You can see that he's hurt. Bad. Even worse than before. "Are you going to be okay?" you ask, worried.

Will starts to nod, stops, then shakes his head. "Taking out–that guard–I think–I made it worse. We need–to get out." He ties the final knot in your bandage.

You stand and, following Will's lead, take the other guard's gun. You turn back to Will and help him up.

"Tell me the way. I'll help you." You put an arm around him, careful not to touch his side. He leans heavily on you, and notice he's turning pale. He mumbles a direction, and you set off.