Author’s Note: Warning this chapter contains scenes that may be emotionally difficult.
The timer was ticking down. We had eighteen minutes to escape certain doom. I had no clue how the progress at the gate was going, but I doubted they had gotten far. Kellen was watching me silently, waiting for me to think of an answer. I had the answer floating somewhere in my panicked mind. The timer. Unable to be tampered with.
Think, Luna, think! I thought, tugging at my hair. They needed to cancel out the electric shock in case they needed to work on it themselves. How did they cancel it out?
“Miss Danevbie!” Rosie came running in, her hair flying behind her. “LUNA! We need you out there, something’s happened! The gate–there’s trouble–they’ve splintered some of the wood but nobody knows what to do now!”
I stood up, feeling bewildered. “Okay. Okay, yes, I’ll come. I’ll be right back, Kell.” I started to leave then turned back so I could kiss him. We exchanged looks and then I followed Rosie out to the gate. There was now a splintery section in the shutters but it wasn’t a hole and it wasn’t big.
“How are we gonna get past the gate?” One of the purples asked me.
I chewed at my nails, staring at the gate, trying to think. “No. No, this. There–the middle of the shutters. Break through there and maybe the force of the gate opening… start from that section you you made, work towards the middle. Break through right where the gate opens. Got it?” I was promised that they got it and I started to leave, then stopped. “How long do you think it will take?”
“Don’t know,” Libano said, wiping some sweat off his forehead. “It took us several minutes to get that and it’s not even all the way through. I’d say a good quarter hour.”
I drew a sharp intake of breath. That would give us three minutes, at most. “Hit harder,” I said, turning to get back to Kellen and the bomb. “Use the handles, thrust hard, and break through.”
I ran off without another word and by the time I got back to Kellen, I remembered the answer to the timer. “There’s a button!” I shouted as I ran in. “It stops the electric shock! It’s a blue button and it should have a lightning bolt on it.”
“There’s nothing like that on here,” he said, waving his hand at the terrible thing in the floor. “There’s only two buttons, a plain red, a plain green.”
I peered down into the hole then rocked back onto my feet, chewing so hard at my bottom lip that I started to draw blood. “It can’t be too far. No… the blue wire. There. See? We need to follow it. Blue.”
So we began pulling up the floorboards and a few feet away, we found a little lump of metal that had the blue button on it. “I push it and it stops the shock?” Kellen asked.
“No…” I mumbled. “You have to hold it in. As soon as it’s released, the timer goes back to being shocked up. You hold it in–“
“NO!” Kellen yelled, causing me to jump. “And what? You work on the bomb? No! I will not let you do that. You hold that button in, Luna, or–or–or else!”
I wanted to argue with him, but couldn’t argue with that miserable look on his face. “Yes…” I said, kneeling down and pushing the button. “Be careful.”
He wiped his sweaty hands off on his pants and went over to the bomb. I closed my eyes tightly. Be careful, Kellen. Oh please be careful… this… is not right… this isn’t happening… please be careful!
I opened my eyes again and watched as he started messing with the thing. “Do you know how to stop it?” he asked.
“No,” I confessed. “This is what I worked on–the protection on the timer, not the timer itself. Do you know how to stop something like this?”
“I don’t want to smash it,” he said with a forced laugh. “Kaboom. Maybe. I don’t want to fiddle too much because… well, kaboom. Maybe.” He withdrew his hands and wiped them on his pants again. “Oh jeez. Lune–what do I do? I–I’m scared…” He said this last bit in a faint voice.
I let go of the button and went over, wrapping my arms around him. I couldn’t hold the tears in anymore, and neither could he. What if this was it? I couldn’t believe I’d never see them again–Viola, Sebastion, Cesario. Mom. Dad. Rion and Milla, their daughter Maura. Temp and Kyle, and Jake and Elle. No. NO! There was a way, there WOULD be a way!
“Press the button,” I said, yanking away from Kellen.
“NOW” I shouted and he retreated over to the other hole to hold in the button. I bent over the timer and began messing with the wires. I wasn’t sure what the buttons did and I decided to try them. Neither of them affected anything as far as I could tell, so I returned to the wires and when I pulled carefully at two of them at the same time–the timer slowed. I let go of the wires, and the timer sped up to normal speed.
Over the next few minutes, I tried to figure out a way to have the wires held by a non-human force. I tore strips of cloth but they didn’t hold well. I tried the laces of my shoes, but they weren’t working well either. I figured if I had plenty of time, I’d be able to get them to hold at the right pressure–but I was down to nine minutes normal speed.
“Hold on,” I told Kellen and I ran as fast as I could to the gate to see how much progress was made. There were loads of splintery spots and I was told it would probably take around ten minutes. So we had to slow the timer.
I ran back to the Hall and Kellen pressed the button while I pulled at the wire. As the timer slowed, I did some calculations in my head. Holding these wires gave us… nine extra minutes. We were now at seventeen minutes again. If the door took ten minutes, then… seven minutes to get everyone to safety.
I wondered if I could put weight against the blue button, but I didn’t want to take away the time it would take to test it out. That meant two people here in the Hall, to keep the timer slowed. It would be a close call. But… as long as they got the doors bust open in time, then we’d all be able to escape.
If it took any longer, then…
I looked up at Kellen. He saw the look on my face, and was opening and closing his mouth. I sucked in some air, and answered his question before he could ask it. I told him what was on my mind, and he went pale. He understood the implications. Two people risking their lives. Two people, who might not make it.
“So we stay,” Kellen said, his voice devoid of emotion.
“We stay,” I replied, closing my eyes, about to picture my kids–when footsteps came into the hall. I opened my eyes and saw, with surprise, the Wings.
“They’re getting it,” Moswen said, stepping closer to where I was. “But it’s going to take some more time.”
“How long?” I asked, trying to keep my hands from trembling.
Moswen knelt in front of me. “Just enough,” she said. “But not enough. I heard what you said. Is this… the minutes we have until it explodes?”
I looked down at the timer. Thirteen minutes. “Yes,” I said. “How long?”
“At the pace they’re going…” Moswen stopped and shook her head. “Maybe ten minutes. Eleven or twelve, to get the door open.”
Not enough, I repeated her words in my head. “Moswen… can you do me a favor?” I whispered. “My kids–“
“Luna.” Her hands went around mine and her white eyes locked with mine. “Let go.” Her fingers slid mine, holding onto the wire.
I realized what she was doing. “No,” I said. “You let go! You get out of this building, okay?”
“We, ah, heard what you said.” Libano started to walk over to Kellen. “About whoever stays is probably gonna die. That’s true?”
“Yes,” Kellen said, narrowing his eyes. “I suggest you go help with the gate. All right?”
“Gonna make me?” Libano asked, tilting his head. Kellen gaped and then clamped his mouth shut, looking quite angry. “There’s not enough time to talk ’bout it but Moss and I… we know what we wanna do.”
“No, you don’t,” I cut in. “You don’t understand. And–if you’re–no! I won’t let you do this!” I tried to elbow Moswen away from the wires. “What about Rosie?”
“What about your kids?” Moswen said fiercely. “Do they deserve to go without a mother any more’n Rosie does? I told you before, Mrs. Danevbie. Libby and I–we love Ancora. I don’t know what’s goin’ on outside these walls but it’s probably not something we can live in. We’ve had our share of pain, and so has Rosie.”
“Look, we don’t have time to argue about this–” I tried.
“No!” Moswen interrupted. “We don’t! Rosie’s a strong girl. And I think this worlds needs your brains more’n it needs mine.”
“It’s not about who’s smarter!” I exclaimed in protest.
“No,” she agreed. “It’s about who’s more stubborn, and ma’am, no disrespect but I can be really stubborn. We don’t have time to argue with this. You’ve been kind to us, Luna. A lot more than anyone else here.”
“And besides,” Libano said, “who is gonna help everyone? There’s gonna be a lot of confused people outside these walls, and no one knowing what to do or where to go.”
My mouth opened but I knew he was right. The villagers of Ancora would have no clue what to do after getting through those gates. They’d be scared, and confused, and very lost. And what if Jay showed up?
“Please, Mrs. Danevbie,” Moswen said, urging me with her eyes. “You an’ your husband go. Help the other villagers. They need someone who knows what’s outside these walls. They need you both.”
“They only need one person,” I growled. “Kellen will go.”
“No way! You go!” Kellen yelled back at me. “Don’t be stupid!”
“Libby and I always knew we’d pass on together,” Moswen said. “We’re running out of time so please, just–go.”
I looked at the timer and realized that we were getting low on time. If we argued anymore, we could run out with all four of us in here. I closed my eyes, feeling like scum as I let go of the wires. But then I opened my eyes again, and grabbed the wires once more. Before Moswen could protest, I said softly, “You should explain to Rosie. She needs it.”
Moswen and Libano looked at each other then they both got up, leaving the building. “We can’t let them do this,” I choked out.
“I think we have to,” he replied in a low, angry tone. “They’re both determined.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to look at my surroundings anymore. I just held the wires and waited until the Wings returned. When my eyes opened, I saw we had five minutes to go. “Do me a favor,” Moswen said as she went to take over the button-holding. Libano crouched near me and held the wires.
I stood up, wincing at the cramps in my legs. “Anything,” I promised.
Moswen turned her face up to me. “Take care of Rosie, will you?”
“Yes,” I replied right away. “I will.”
“Goodbye, Mrs. Danevbie.”
Kellen put his arms around me and began pulling me towards the room. “G-goodbye,” I managed to get out as my emotions got the better of me once again. “Goodbye Moswen, goodbye Libano…”
And then I turned and gripped Kellen’s hand as we ran to the gates just in time. They had broken through the shutters and needed the key in Kellen’s pocket to unlock the outside of the gate.
Kellen worked the lock, as a grief-stricken Rosie fell against me and cried. I held onto her tightly, knowing no words could help.