To me, my steps sounded not like my feet hitting the floor of the hallway, but of explosions and gunshots. They paired with the symphony of screams and alarms in my head, set to the images of burned buildings and empty vaults. This was the sound of my future. I had known this was coming. Each failing grade had walked me closer to the moment, just as my steps carried me towards the office. Most people didn't believe the rumors of the kind of assignments the school handed out, but I knew better. The world isn't as nice as most people let themselves believe.
Even after I reached the door, it was a long time before I knocked. It felt like I'd been planted in the earth, my roots reaching miles underground, undisturbed for centuries and impossible to move without breaking. I had only one option, though: I broke them, my knuckles rapping determinedly on the wood.
"Come in." The answer was deep and confident. All cowered before this voice, but I would not. I could not. One final blow of my mental ax and my roots snapped. I left all safety and self at the door, my sneakers sinking into the carpet of the office as I stepped forward. "Ah, Miss Hohn, I have been expecting you." Doctoral committeeman Kieran Wraith leaned forward in his chair. "I have been reviewing your records, and I must say you are an ideal student. Not one foot out of line ever." Though physically he looked up to meet my eyes, I could feel in his words that he was looking down on me.
"Thank you." I replied, my words as insincere as his had been. "So, you know why I'm here?"
"Hmm." Wraith tapped his fingers on the desk in front of him. "I'm sorry, young lady, but I can't help you." He leaned forward. "You know very well what kind of extra credit assignments we give out and frankly there's good in you."
I narrowed my eyes at him. This wasn't the time for failure. I couldn't afford to stay at the school much longer, and I couldn't leave without a degree. "I really think all that's in me at this point is Ramen, Red Bull, and spite." My voice dropped as far as possible. "Besides, I'm desperate, and we both know the danger of a desperate person."
His mouth twitched upwards. I entertained him, and, in this case, that was to my advantage.
"What do I have to do?"
Now, a true, twisted smile found its way to Wraith's face. "I think we will start small if you really plan to do this."
I took a final breath before locking his shackles around my own wrists. "I'll do anything at this point."
"Good. Now, what do you know about Egyptian gold?" The weight of my new chains settled on me. There would be no way out of this one.