Gah, this took sooo long to write! I kept plugging away, though, and I'm very glad I did. Read well!
Reynie awoke to the sound of screaming. The screams were primal, terrible and earsplitting. And very nearby.
He sat up, blinking in the florescent light. He had absolutely no idea where he was, who it was screaming, or how he'd gotten here in the first place. The room was small and entirely silver; it was not unlike being inside a soup pot. A single light bulb was suspended above, casting an unnatural glow about the place, hurting Reynie's eyes. The screams grew louder, more frantic; Reynie shot to his feet, electrified with terror. His head was pounding fit to burst and his heart was beating fiercely with it. There was no door. No door to freedom, to whatever lay outside this room. He clutched his head, trying to think clearly. Nothing made sense. He couldn't remember anything past the meeting with his friends and being about to speak with Mr. Benedict. He leaned against the wall, wincing at its metallic coldness. It would be a waste of time to think of anything besides how to escape. He could make a more detailed, complex plan later. He began looking everywhere for an entrance, and exit, an escape, a crack—anything. Thinking of Mr. Curtain's wheelchair and his secret passageway at The Institute (opened by bumping a well-placed boulder) he started to shove the wall, kick at it and hope for the best.
But that would be too easy.
Mr. Curtain was smarter than that and so was Reynie. All at once, the screams stopped, leaving a thick silence behind. Reynie listened with every fiber of his body, desperate to discern voices. And—ah. He heard them.
"That's enough shrieking, don't you think, my dear?"
There was a faint moan.
"Why don't you have a nice nap, now?"
Reynie knew with a powerful sinking in his belly, that it was Constance whose screams had woken him. She was hurt. Hurt too badly to speak, or cry out. And he had to help her, it was life or death. Reynie inhaled deeply, exhaled and knelt to the floor, ready to make a plan.
"Ouch!" He cringed at the sudden sharp pain in his side, and pulled up his shirt. A harmless looking pencil was caught there, its tip barely digging into his skin. Upon further speculation, Reynie saw that this was no ordinary pencil. It's tip was needle sharp and lethal. He smiled. Unknowingly, the Ten Men had given him his way out.
Within ten minutes, Reynie was standing in a frightfully long corridor, surveying his surroundings. To the right, the corridor stretched until it reached an imposing doorway. No, too risky. To the left, it curved almost lazily out of sight. Maybe…
Reynie made up his mind and headed to the left, creeping as quietly as he could. His head was too light—he feared he might pass out at any moment. An odd haze hung at the periphery of his vision like a mirage. Upon reaching the first door, Reynie saw with a jump of his heart, that there was a small window in it. Making quite sure there was no one else in the vicinity, he straightened to his full height, and peered in. An ordinary looking office lay before him, complete with a few normal computers, desks and folding chairs. Nothing top-secret about it. He tried the nob. It was unlocked.
Knowing that the room beyond an unlocked door could act as a trap, Reynie moved on, the image of stealth. At the second door, there was also a window. He looked through it, and his stomach jolted. A frail pile of limbs lay prone on the tile floor, blond hair disheveled.
He tried this nob, and it remained stubbornly locked. He pushed against it, growing more and more panicked. If it didn't open…dear goodness, Constance could die! He gave the door a shove, despising its solid obstinacy. Shocked at his own strength, Reynie twisted the doorknob hard, so hard that it yielded with a click. Swinging it wide, he burst into the room and dropped to his knees beside Constance. Someone groaned, and he snapped around, heart pounding terribly. Sticky and Kate were discarded in a corner, gagged and handcuffed together. Kate had tears running down her cheeks and soaking the cloth that constricted her mouth, while Sticky had gone quite pale and rigid. He was holding Kate, his free arm around her so fiercely he would never let go. In an instant, Reynie was there, releasing them of their gags and apologizing over and over for not getting there sooner. Unable to unlock the handcuffs, Reynie hugged them, chains and all. "Are you hurt?"
Kate shook her head. "Not enough to put us out of commission." She knelt next to Reynie as he rolled Constance on her back. They both gasped. Constance had a nasty gash in her forehead and drops of blood ran down her face like scarlet tears.
"They can't do this." Kate looked at Reynie, her nostrils flaring in barely contained fury. "They're crossing a line, torturing a child like this. They shocked her, Reynie. Shocked her and beat her and left her there to bleed. And I couldn't do anything." A tear fell onto her lap and she roughly wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "I kept imagining them hurting you, and it was all I could do to keep from screaming. There are others, here, you know."
"People who know things they shouldn't." Kate got to her feet, steadying a swaying Sticky.
"I'm awfully glad to see you alive, Reynie." Sticky's voice cracked, nearly imperceptibly. "How did you ever escape from where they were keeping you, anyway?"
"I'll tell you later. For now—" Reynie lifted Constance into his arms. "We need to get help. Quickly!"
They left, Reynie holding Constance as gently as he could, Kate and Sticky bound at the wrists. They hadn't gone more than twenty steps, when a great crowd of Ten Men appeared at the other end of the hall, seeming not to have noticed the horrified fugitives opposite them. In fact, they were having quite a good time cracking jokes and snickering heartily.
Sticky swore under his breath, and grabbed Reynie by the collar of his shirt. "We have to go the other way!"
Reynie spun around and they ran for it. Well, they walked quickly and with purpose. Breaking into a sprint would have been too conspicuous. Kate pulled poor Sticky along like a toy yo-yo, frantically searching for escape. "This way!" she whispered, and gestured down a side hallway. In moments, they found themselves in a room with a large table and an ample amount of chairs around it.
"That. Was. Insane." Sticky collapsed into a chair, then leaped up again as the sound of laughter reached their ears. "Oh no! They're coming this way!"
Kate looked at Reynie, and it was an appeal, a plea for help. They had run out of solutions and it was up to him. Calmly, Reynie laid Constance carefully on a chair, removed his right shoe, took aim, and hurled it at the substantial window. Ducking shards of glass, he took off his other shoe (what was the point of only wearing one?) and scooped Constance up once more.
"Brilliant," said Kate. She strode to the window, or rather, the lack of, and peered out. "There's a good drop to the ground, boys."
"We have to," said Reynie. "I know it's scary, but it's our only way out. We'll just have to manage." He took of his jacket, used it to secure Constance to him, lest she fall to her death. He went first, wincing at the sheer drop below. It didn't help that a rocky outcropping awaited them.
"You're going to get hurt, or worse," said Sticky. "You can't do this, Reynie."
"What we need," remarked Kate, glancing nervously behind, "is for Constance to wake up."
Reynie squeezed the small girl's limp hand. "Wake up, Constance. We need you."
"…Like I said, Crawlings, you'd be an idiot not to—" Garrote broke off with a strangled yelp. His eyes grew wide as the reality of the scene came crashing down upon him. From his spot in the doorway, he saw the four prisoners by the shattered window, obviously about to escape. The little girl was unconscious in the brown haired boy's arms, while the other girl and boy remained handcuffed together, glaring ferociously at him.
"Where in God's name do you think you're going?"
"Leave us alone!" Kate stepped forward, yanking Sticky's arm. "Stop blindly following Mr. Curtain's orders, and just think! Think about what you've done to us since we were eleven years old."
"You've tortured us, tormented us, captured us, hurt us!" Reynie held out a hand smeared with Constance's blood. "What will it take for you to stop?"
Garrote, Crawlings and a number of nameless Ten Men stood in the doorway, shock watches winking in the light.
"We're young," said Sticky, "but we're people, too. People who choose to do the right thing with the right people. And somehow, in this messed-up, rotten world, we get punished for that. It isn't right."
"It's cruel," said Kate.
"And if you agree with us," added Reynie, "please, please walk away and give us a chance to live." The irony of the last word and Mr. Curtain's school acronym was not lost on him.
The Ten Men looked at the Mysterious Benedict Society, and the Mysterious Benedict Society looked back. And when the wall of Ten Men advanced with a fury that preceded war, the three conscious friends locked eyes and turned to their last resort.
What will become of our young heroes? You'll find out...