“What do you think would be in the third stage?” asked Anglea, a pretty blondie who is tougher than she looks. Scott shrugs.
“Who knows? They come up with these weird tests, it’s so unpredictable. What do you think, Raph?”
“I don’t have a single clue. For now, they’ve tested out our weaponry skills and field operation techniques. It’s impossible to tell what will happen next,” I said.
“Really, the tests they’ve given us had been really tough. Could there be anything more difficult?” Roy, stuffing his mouth full of chicken nuggets and fries.
“Be careful of what you say, Roy. You never know what’s going to happen next,” I warned. Roy rolled his eyes.
“Right, I’ll just shut up, then.” Just at that moment, an agent walked in, wearing one of those unreadable, grim expressions.
“Raphael Santiago. The deputy would like to see you,” said the agent, his voice emotionless. I sighed and got up from my chair.
“What did I do now?” I muttered to myself. Roy smirked.
“Who knows? ‘You never know what’s going to happen next’, right?” The others laughed. I cast one last glare at him before following the agent towards the deputy’s office.
“Come in,” called the deep voice of the deputy from inside the room. I opened the door and slid inside. The deputy had a cigarette dangling from his mouth and a piece of paper in hand. “Please, take a seat,” he said without glancing at me. I dragged the chair out of the table across from him and sat. With his other hand, he removed his cigar and blew an air of smoke out while studying the paper.
“I see that you’ve have done pretty well in all areas of your required skills,” he complimented.
“Thank you, sir,” I said, humbled by his praise. He nodded, waving a hand dismissively. Then, he turned and met my gaze.
“Are you ready for the next stage?”
“Yes,” I reply without hesitation.
“Good. Bring her in.” I sat, puzzled, as one of his personal bodyguards signaled the agent stationed outside the door. Seconds later, a girl, bounded and gagged, was carried inside the room. She struggled against the restraints, but too weak to be able to free herself. The agents pushed her roughly into the seat at the head of the table we were sitting at. “Ungag her,” the deputy commanded, and she was ungagged. Streams of tears rolled down her cheek while she sobbed without control. A cold sensation creeped its way up towards my spine and I forced down a shiver. I looked to the deputy for explanation, but he ignored me, and to my disbelief, he pulled out a pistol from his drawer and placed it on the table between us.
“Kill her.” I blinked.
“What?” I exclaimed, astonished and terrified. He blew out another puff of smoke.
“My dear boy, I tend not have the habit of repeating myself.”
“Are you mad?” I demanded, half-rising from the chair. “Why-?” I stopped mid-sentence. This is the test, I realized as I looked at the deputy who was observing my every move. After a pause, I reached for the gun, and curled my hand around its handle. Never in my life had I ever been so unsure of myself. I stood slowly advanced towards the girl and pressed the gun barrel against the girl’s temple.
“Please,” she gasped, her tears flowing rapidly. “Don’t.” My grip on the gun trembled slightly.
Do it, a voice urged inside my head. I tried to steady my arm, but it kept shaking uncontrollably.
Yes, you can, the voice hissed angrily. You’ve come all this way to where you are now. Are you willing to throw everything away?
I can’t. She was so young, so innocent. She must had friends, a family, dreams, a future-
A future? How about your future? Your dream as an Elite of the agency?
My knuckles whiten as I tighten my grip on the handle, my hands wet and slippery from the sweat breaking out within my palm. I closed my eyes and imagined myself as I shot the girl and the blood pooling underneath her…
Bang. A shot rang out from the room next door. I flinched in alarm and my eyelids flew wide open. I hadn’t fired the gun. Then the realization hit me. One of the selected had fired the gun. Horror rushed through me as the truth weighted down on me.
Someone had. One of my friends.
Another sound of gunshot rang from farther away. Then another. Three people, three friends of mine have killed someone they were assigned, and only two others remained alive. Mine. And whoever was left.
Do it, the voice pressed harder, making me wince. One more step and you get everything you’ve ever lived for, the one thing you’ve ever wanted-
And kill an innocent while I’m at it?
Raphael, the voice growled. You know very well yourself that this is the one and only chance you’ll ever get to be an Elite. Or the last novice will beat you to it, SO GET ON WITH IT!
“Please,” the girl croaked, pleading me with the pair of large, deep blue eyes. “Please.” I took a deep shaky breath and closed my eyes.
Kill her, kill her, kill her, the voice echoed unmercifully. I gritted my teeth and managed to make the voice subside. I gave myself a full ten seconds before I came to a final decision. I stood, lowered my arm down, and placed it back onto the table.
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t do it,” I said staring at the floor, afraid to meet the deputy’s penetrating eyes. I turned and walked towards the door while the numbness and hollowness settled inside me.
I twisted open the door knob, stepping out into the hallway as the voice screamed accusingly at me for failing myself. I continued onward without a backward glance.
Bang. The last bullet was fired.