Daniel’s legs shake as he watches Rose be escorted out of the building. He tries to reassure himself that he’s doing the right thing, that he’s saving tons of lives... but something nicks his heart, making him hurt a bit for the Unnamed.
“I trusted you!” She calls, her eyes full of angry tears. The burst of emotion exploding from Rose takes Daniel by surprise, just as it had after they watched Jim burn... “I trusted you, Runner!”
With that last word, the doors are slammed shut and the Elite Leader claps slowly, murmurs circling around the room.
“Well,” the Elite Leader in the red blazer smiles and crosses his arms, his eyes full of something mysterious. “Looks like you had it in you after all, boy.”
Daniel shakes his head and leans on the wood in front of him. His head throbs.
“We didn’t think you’d do it, but you did. You ratted them out.”
“Well,” Daniel chokes out, closing his eyes for a moment before standing up on his quaking legs. “I couldn’t let anyone else die, could I?”
The Elite Leader shrugs. “You could have. You could have kept your mouth shut. Either way they would have never been able to penetrate these walls.”
“What do you mean?” Daniel asks, genuinely confused.
“We knew this year was going to be big. We found their city, thanks to you. But whether or not you would have taken the leap you took just a minute ago, we came prepared. There are Protectors guarding every inch of this building. If someone even tries to come in without permission, they’re shot on sight.”
Daniel feels as if he was punched in the gut. Shot on sight? How many people have tried to get into the building since they caught Rose?
The Runner suddenly feels as if he wants to throw up. But would he have chosen differently if he had known?
“You did well, Runner,” the Elite Runner smiles. “Oh-excuse me, Elite Runner Daniel.”
After a long day of trials, the Runner stands up from his chair. His legs hurt, but most of all his heart hurts. He never knew that there were so many rules or that there were so many people who break them. He almost feels sorry for them, as if he should say that they’re all innocent.
But the other parts of him tell him that he followed all the rules himself. If he let these people get away with what they’ve done it wouldn’t be fair to those people like him-the good people.
He can feel a bit of him grow cold and hard, as if that side of him believes they deserve their punishment, no matter how harsh it may seem. But he pushes it away and pretends as if it’s nothing and it won’t change him any.
As he makes his way down the stairs, he notices the rooms’ light is on that rests at the foot of them. His footsteps are light on the wood as he rounds the corner to peer into the room.
“Hello Daniel the Elite Runner,” the Elite Leader smiles as he takes a sip of some sort of liquid from a cup. “Come, sit.”
The room is small and has several things placed inside its walls. There is a couch on the left hand side, pushed all the way up against the blue walls, with a clear glass coffee table before it. Two reclining chairs are on either side of the table, just waiting to be occupied. A square dinner table sits in one of the corners with one chair poking out from beneath it. A fridge, sink, and stove are all placed next to that, followed by another door that is open enough to see a toilet. Last but not least, there is a cot folded up in the last corner.
The room is decorated with black and white objects, including fringe, flowers, and sculptures. They’re placed in such a way to give the room life without seeming cluttered.
Daniel hesitantly glides across the floor and, when the Elite Leader motions for him to sit in one of the recliners, he sits. His heart is racing in his chest from anticipation of what’s to be said and what’s to be heard.
“Welcome to your office,” the Elite Leader smiles at him and looks around. “Soon someone will be by to show you to your mansion and introduce you to your new staff. Well, new staff at least for the next twenty-four-or-so hours. Then, if you choose, you can replace every one of them.”
“Where will they go?” Daniel asks.
The Elite Leader shrugs. “Back into the choosing pot. The Elites do get to choose new ones this year. If you decide to abandon these Servants and replace them, they will be picked first, and the other Elites will get these Servants along with a majority of their original choices. So no worries there, Runner.
“Meanwhile, tell me everything about the Unnamed and who they are.”
Daniel looks down at his hands as they sit intertwined. Something tells him the Elite Leader is crossing a line, an invisible one, but still crossing it. Should he name these people? Give away who they are and what they do? Should he tell the Elites everything?
He looks back up at the man sitting in the center of the couch, sipping his drink silently.
“How do I know I can trust you?”
The Elite Leader chuckles and shakes his head. “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
“That doesn’t mean a thing,” Daniel snaps. The Elite Leader laughs at this.
“Don’t get smart with me, boy. Are you asking me if you can trust me because you don’t want them hurt? Or are you asking me that because I’m an Elite and you really are part of the rebellion?”
A spark ignites inside the Runner. How could he be a part of the Unnamed after all they did? They killed in cold blood. They were going to kill him. How could the Elite Leader say something like that to him?
“I don’t want any harm to come to them,” the Runner answers, treading on thin ice. “Can I trust you with that, should I tell you who and what they really are?”
The Elite Leader seems to ponder this for a moment, taking in everything about Daniel: his body language, his tone, his words, the passion in his eyes. And then he smiles like a Cheshire.
“You can trust me, Elite Runner Daniel. I promise no harm will come to the Unnamed.”