The sky was starting to darken toward sunset. They walked in silence out of the small front entrance to the Stone, picking their way through the courtyard, into the forest beyond. As they reached the line of trees, Wells swore he could see something strange out of the corner of his eye, a bright flame moving westward fast, but he didn’t dare turn for fear of giving Oak an excuse to pull the trigger.

Every time Wells thought they might stop—this had to have been far enough—they would keep going, dread gripping him tighter and tighter with every step.

Finally, Oak barked, “Here,” and Graham and Wells stopped walking.

Wells turned slowly, arms high, then winced as Oak shoved one of the guns across his chest. Oak stared at him expectantly, and Wells grasped for a way to buy time. He’d find a way out of this nightmare. He had to.

“Can I—can I have a moment alone with Graham to say good-bye?”

Oak’s eyes softened slightly. “Fine, but I’ll be right over there if you need me.” He pointed to the perimeter of the Stone, then turned to walk away.

Wells held his breath, his pulse stilling to a cold, steady beat. What could he do? He could either kill Graham, or refuse and be killed himself, or kill Oak. There wasn’t an option. He lifted the barrel of the gun and trained it at Oak’s retreating back. He closed one eye, taking aim, his finger on the trigger and—

Two bound hands pulled the barrel down again.

Wells gasped, turning to Graham, whispering, “What are you doing?” He wrestled the rifle free. “We’ll shoot him and we’ll run.”

Graham smiled bleakly. His eyes were so swollen with bruises that Wells could barely see his eyes. “You really think it’s that simple? I can barely walk after what they did to me. How are we going to get away? They’d come after us, and they’d kill us both. I’m a dead man either way. But you can get back in there and help our people. And if you can bring these bastards down in the process, so much the better.”


Wells wiped sweat from his forehead. “What are you saying?”

“You know what I’m saying, Jaha, don’t be obtuse.”

“There’s another way—” Wells’s breaths came short, frantic. “I’ll fire at the tree. Give you a chance to run, say I missed.”

“They’ll kill you for missing.”

“I’ll dig a hole and say I buried you, I’ll—”

“They’ll want to see a body, Wells, think!” Graham’s whisper rose into a shout. He sucked his voice back in, shaking his head, his eyes growing distant. “All those things you said in there…”

Wells’s mouth went dry, though he kept his gun trained on Graham so Oak wouldn’t get suspicious. “Graham. I didn’t—”

“They were true.” His eyes rose to meet Wells’s, wide and clear. “I am not a good person. I’m not. Never have been, not for my entire life. But you are.” Graham snorted. “I think it’s what’s always bugged me the most about you.”

“I…” Wells’s head slumped. Graham was wrong—it had been a very long time since he’d considered himself a good person by any definition of the word. But this, what they were asking him to do, was a new level of monstrous. “I won’t do this. I can’t.”

“Sure you can,” Graham said, a slight tremor in his whisper betraying the fear underneath it. “I’m giving you permission. Your conscience is totally clear.”

Wells’s hands were slick with sweat against the cold metal of the gun. He glanced down at it, and then back up at the other boy. Graham’s cheeks were wet with tears.

“I never told you what I did back on the ship, did I?” Graham asked, his whisper cracking like a bad radio signal. “What they confined me for?”

Wells watched wordlessly as Graham raised his eyebrows and fell to his knees, until he was peering up at Wells through the darkness, his jaw set and eyes streaming.

“I’ve done bad things, Jaha. You don’t even know how many bad things. Let me do this one noble thing now. Please. Please just let me.”

Wells could hardly look at Graham, his longtime enemy’s forehead contorted with pain as he pleaded… not for his life, but for his own death. There was no trace here of the smirking, strutting Phoenician boy Wells knew. That Graham was already gone.

But this one was well worth saving.

“No,” Wells said, certainty cementing in his muscles. “We’ll find another wa—”

Graham’s hand darted out for Wells’s trigger before he could so much as blink. The blast rang out through the forest, through the air, through Wells’s head and heart and bones.

He stared at the smoking barrel, and then at the spot where Graham had been kneeling, and then, last and longest, at Graham’s lifeless crumpled body, his blood pouring in rivulets over the blanket of leaves beneath him.

Thoughts broke through the cloud of horror surrounding Wells.

Graham could have run. He could have been selfish. Anybody would have in his position.

He died to save us.

Minutes, hours, days passed, Wells hardly knew… and then a hand gripped his shoulder. Wells flinched, closed his eyes, and turned to see Oak staring at him with solemn pride.

“You’ve learned,” the Protector said. “Well done, son. Let’s go home.”





It felt amazing to be roaming through the woods again. Jumping lightly over fallen logs, taking care to stay in the shadows of the trees, Bellamy could almost pretend he was out on another hunting trip. Even Luke’s presence next to him felt familiar. As his leg started to heal, he’d begun to join Bellamy on some of his outings. Normally, Bellamy resented having someone with him—most people moved slowly, or loudly, or felt the need to fill the silence with mindless chatter. Yet Luke was content to spend hours in the woods barely exchanging a word, communicating with just the odd nod or hand gesture when one of them spotted a target.

But he and Luke weren’t looking for a deer to bring back to camp. They were about to sneak into a fortress full of weird, white-clad murderers and steal their bombs.

“We’re getting close, right?” Luke asked quietly, finally breaking the silence. “This all looks a little different to me in the dark.”

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