'Light?' she whispered before nodding. She then let the plant take in some much needed vitamin D. But after a couple of moments, the sound of a boat approaching in the distance, made her swiftly close the box and dash back into the warehouse.
'We've got company.'
'There's still time to get out,' Rupert replied as he gauged how long it would take for the Skulls to see them.
'Quick,' yelled the other Mentor.
'You guys and gals get out now. I'll follow right behind you,' Declan said as the others disappeared out the door, leaving him behind to hide any evidence of their visit.
The group bolted for the hidden entrance to the underground tunnel, confident they'd all escaped unseen. But as they went to shut the hatch behind them, they soon became aware that Declan still hadn't made it back.
The sound of echoing gunshots made Sammy drop the box to the floor. The sound was followed by a loud splash.
'Declan didn't have a g*n, Declan didn't have a g*n,' Emma said over and over as Diarmuid tried to calm her down.
'He's been shot. Oh no, Diarmuid, Declan's hurt.'
The three older Mentors re-opened the hatch and climbed out. But before they could stop anyone else from exiting, Emma had made a run for it back towards the warehouse.
'Emma, no!' cried Lana who tried to grab hold of her and failed.
The others joined in the chase.
Soon, all of them were standing outside the building as the three Skulls spotted them and made a quick escape into their boat.
Without even thinking about it, Emma dived into the freezing cold water and swam as fast as she could until she reached the speed boat. Grabbing hold of the side, she pulled it hard so that it turned in the water. The Skulls couldn't figure out what was happening as they tried to straighten it, but she kept pulling and pulling until her fingers slipped off the side and she dropped down into the depths of the Thames. Her heart ached as she thought about that gunshot.
Reluctantly letting them go, she turned back towards the warehouse. Swimming beneath the murky waters, she remembered another day, shortly after her 16th birthday, when she'd discovered her ability to swim beneath the water like a fish. The memory faded quickly and was replaced by one from just moments earlier. The sound of gunshots.
Seconds before she was about to break the surface of the water, something caught her attention below.
With her eyes wide open, she swam down until she reached him. Grabbing him, she held tightly onto his bleeding body as she propelled herself high out of the Thames and onto the riverside.
'Declan,' she sobbed, 'Declan.'
Pounding his chest and breathing into his mouth, she tried to bring him back.
She looked down at him lying there motionless, his pale face looking so different from the happy, fun-filled face she was used to seeing. A deep sob reverberated from her chest as she leant forward again, pulling back his head and opening his mouth so she could breathe into his lungs again and again. She pumped on his chest.
'Declan, come back Declan. Please come back. Don't leave us... don't leave us,' she cried.
'Emma,' said Diarmuid as he bent down and tried to pull her away. 'Em... he's gone, he's gone.'
She leant back and pushed away his arms. 'No!'
Pounding his chest again, she eventually gave up and collapsed next to him, sobbing.
Diarmuid and Lana carefully picked her up as they sobbed together.
Rupert did nothing but stand and look on as one of the older Mentors re-appeared after chasing the Skulls. He bent down and picked Declan's corpse up from the ground and fled as fast as he could.
'I'm taking him back to Praxos,' he yelled. 'You know the way back. Stay safe.'
'Where did the other Mentors go?' asked Emma with a sob.
'They're chasing the Skulls.'
'We should go too,' she replied.
Lana shook her head, 'No, Emma. Not this time. We need to go back.'
She sobbed again and nodded.
The walk back to Praxos HQ was the longest ever. Nobody said a word. All that could be heard throughout the tunnels was the echoing sound of sobbing. Cries for the loss of a good friend. A man who'd become a cool father figure away from home. A man they'd grown to love over the past few months. And now he was gone.
'Oh Eleanor,' sobbed Emma and Lana as they walked out of the tunnel and into her outstretched arms.
'Oh girls, I'm so sorry you had to see that. It must have been horrendous for you all,' she said as she gathered the group together and asked them to follow her to the nursing station.
'We should have told you the truth before all this happened and then you wouldn't have had such heartache.'
'What? What do you mean?' asked Lana as Eleanor pushed open the door to reveal Declan's body lying on a bed.
'No,' Emma cried as she saw him.
'No, you don't understand,' Eleanor said as she turned to face them.
'What don't we understand?' asked Diarmuid, confused.
'Hey guys,' said a voice from across the room. 'Sorry about that, mates. Horrible business that was. Didn't half smart too. Always smarts when I get shot.'
'Declan!' screamed Emma and Lana. 'You're alive!'
He grinned and held open his arms as they rushed towards him and hugged him. When he winced, they pulled back.
'What happened? We thought you were dead. Hang on, you were dead, Declan. You had no pulse, no heartbeat, you weren't breathing. What's going on?'
Declan just grinned as Eleanor stepped forward and perched on the side of his bed.
'Emma, you are quite right. Declan was dead, but he's not any more. He's a little bruised but he's going to be absolutely fine. It usually takes a few hours until he's right as rain.'
'Usually?' asked Rupert. 'What do you mean, usually?'
Declan grinned, 'Remember my tattoo?'
The girls shared a look and shook their heads.
'I do,' Elliott said from the end of the bed. 'Resurgam. Of course,' he said, slapping his forehead. 'We should have known that day you told us.'
Declan raised his eyebrows and nodded, 'I thought you would have figured it out but, hey,' he shrugged his shoulders.
'What? figured what out?' asked Lana, stamping her foot.
'Resurgam means I Shall Arise,' Eleanor pointed out.
'Declan Alexander, I could murder you,' Emma said, punching his arm. 'You let us believe that you were dead for the past two hours. That is so cruel.'
His eyes softened, 'I'm sorry, my love. You're right. I should have told you before. I guess I just didn't know I'd be dying today. Forgive me?' he asked as he turned to look at his students' faces.
Glancing across at each other with a grin, they smiled and nodded together.
'Phew! I didn't fancy enduring the wrath of Emma for much longer,' he laughed as she punched his other shoulder.
Sammy was cradling the plant in her arms, staring closely at its beautiful, multi-coloured petals with a smile. Every now and again, she would sprinkle a few droplets of water onto them and laugh.
When she eventually put it down into the large vase on Eleanor's desk, she turned to look at her Guardian with a grin.
'She nearly died. She's very grateful.'
'I can see that,' replied Eleanor, 'She keeps changing colour. She's really quite remarkable. Were you able to find out any information?'
Sammy nodded, 'She's from the sss, an area hidden from the world. She said they were found by a man who had been studying the rainforest for years. Sadly the man was killed by the Krakor.'
'The Krakor? What's that?'
'It's a beast that lives in the same region as her kind. It feeds on their flowers.'
'Fascinating,' Eleanor said as a feeling of dread began to seep into her toes and up her legs until it reached her face, flushing pink.
'Are you alright, Eleanor?'
'I think what you've just told me is the key to all of this, Sammy. And if it's what I think it is, it's not good. It's not good at all. Please excuse me,' she said as she rushed out of her office, through the main Praxos hall and down towards the archives where the students were continuing their search for Mr X.
Pushing open the door, she literally hopped and skipped over the students on the floor until she reached the computer room.
'Declan? What are you doing here? You should be resting.'
He shook his head, 'I can't rest when we've got work to do,' he said turning and wincing, holding his chest after taking a deep breath.
Eleanor tried to smile but it was hard considering what she was worrying about.
'Would you mind?' she asked as he got out of the seat and let her sit down.
'What's going on?'
'I think I've just discovered something truly terrible,' she said as she typed in the word Krakor.
'Krakor?' he asked.
'Apparently it's a beast that lives deep within the Brazilian rainforest, a beast that lives off of those plants in the warehouse.'
'You don't think...?'
Eleanor nodded, 'Unfortunately, I do.'
Before they could continue their search for the strange creature, a loud yell erupted from the adjacent room.
Eleanor stood up and rushed out with Declan behind her.
Cassie stood in the middle of the room, her hands shaking as she held up a piece of paper.
'I found him,' she muttered.
Eleanor's eyes rounded and she smiled, 'At last,' she exclaimed as Cassie ran to her side and handed it to her.
She read it and rushed back into the computer room. Sitting down, she typed a few letters in and then pressed enter.
'Well, Eleanor?' Declan asked. 'Don't you think you should at least tell them all. They've been working so hard to find that sheet of paper.'
'Yes, yes of course. Sorry, I'm just a little preoccupied,' she said as she handed him the sheet of A4 paper.
Looking down at it, he quickly read it and sighed.
'I'll go and tell them. Shall I give them a break?'
'Yes, yes please do. Tell them to take the rest of the day off,' she said as Declan chuckled.
'Rest of the day? This is one seriously long day.'
Eleanor turned and smiled at him, 'It is, isn't it? Sorry Declan. My mind is all over the place.'
'Don't worry. I'll sort them out. I'll be back shortly to give you a hand.'
Closing the door behind him, Declan turned to look at the students who were all sitting, waiting anxiously for the news.
'You've all been working so hard, go and take some time to yourselves, but please don't leave Praxos. I'll ask Wilbur to organise a snack for you all.'
'Declan?' asked Lana.
'Who is the Skull?'
'Oh, sorry...' he said as he looked across at Cassie who still hadn't said a word.
'His name is Sthenelaus Sophokles and he's been around for thousands of years.'
'But how come you and Eleanor didn't know who he was?' asked a voice from the back of the room.
Declan shrugged, 'He was believed to have been killed in the Byzantine Civil War, well before my time and Eleanor has never come across him before. He must have been keeping a low profile. But that's enough questions for now. Go and take some time for yourselves, guys and gals,' he said as he held his chest and took another deep breath.
The students made their exit but Emma approached him.
'You okay, Declan?'
'I'll be fine, Emma. Don't worry about me,' he winked. 'Can you do me a favour?'
'Can you ask Wilbur to organise some food for you all?'
'Sure,' she said before turning on her heel and leaving him in the empty room.
Declan sat down for a moment, breathing deeply and holding his chest before he stood up and headed back into the computer room.
'Lana,' said a voice behind her as she walked through the hall towards the dining room.
Turning, her heart beat increased tenfold when she spotted Barber striding towards her.