Chapter Ten

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Sleeping, for all that I'm exhausted, doesn't come easily. Too many strange sounds. The constant running of the air conditioner, the slight hum-buzz of the force field, and the occasional muffled scream for help down the hall when someone finally snaps...

These conditions are enough to make anyone testy. To make us go crazy even without theophrenia.

I stretch as best I can under one of the benches-I gave Erin the top half while I use the floor with the blanket draped over the side. It keeps my space a little warmer, at least, and it helps keep out the extra light spilling in from the hall. The agents dimmed the bright LEDs when they told us to go to bed, but they never turned them off completely. I squeeze my eyes shut, wishing we could have a moment of sheer, blissful darkness. It's like they're trying to break us.

If Luuk is right, they are.

Footsteps sound beside me and I tense. Which of the others got up? Will any of them go mad like that guy I heard screaming in the cell across from us? One of the agents tranquilized him and dragged him off.

He didn't come back.

Instead, Erin squeaks in surprise on the bench, and then falls silent. But someone else whispers above me. I strain to hear what they say, but they keep their conversation private.

I wait, listening, hoping for something to wrap my mind around.

There's a loud snap, as if someone's bones have broken, but no one screams. I inch toward the wall, as far from the blanket as possible-

The blanket lifts and I'm staring back at a bronze face with dark brown eyes and short dark, curly hair.

I blink. "Luuk?"

He claps his hand over my mouth and holds his other hand to his lips. "Shhh... shhh... I can mess with some of their communications, but it's easier when there's not much to mess with."

I gape at him. Am I imagining things? How'd he get in here?

"Hold still. I'm going to break the clamp on your collar. I can't remove it or the agents will realize something's up. But I can disconnect the wires so you'll have your powers back. This might pinch, so my apologies."

He grabs a small, clipper-like device from beside him and wrests it between my neck and the collar. I hold super still, terrified that if I move this is going to turn into a full-blown nightmare instead of general weirdness. This has to be a dream. There's no way he could get past that force field without the code, and I doubt some agent gave it to him.

The device wriggles underneath my collar, forcing it tight enough that I can barely breathe. Then it clicks with a sharp snap that echoes through the room.

Everything rushes in on me. Dampness clings to my skin like I cannon-balled into a pool. There's this strange, distinct impression of exactly where the toilet is based on the water in its bowl, and a slightly vaguer impression of the four other people in the room, including Luuk. I also feel something else, a set of several large columns of liquid somewhere on the other side of the building. That feeling fades in an instant, as if I had a sudden surge of sensation before everything returned to normal.

As if this could possibly be called normal.

"I'm going to remove my hand," he whispers, catching my eyes. He retracts the clippers from under my collar. "But don't scream or anything, okay? I've still got to break two more collars in here."

I nod, and he removes his hand from my mouth.

"You said you had hallucinations involving water, right?" Luuk props himself on his elbow so that we both lean on the floor, even while he uses his free hand to hold back the drape of the blanket.

I stare past him in the general direction of the columns of water, and then nod. Those feelings might not be hallucinations. Not unless this one is way more involved than the previous ones.

"Your injection should have worn off by now," Luuk explains, "so now that the wires on the collar are broken, you're no longer shielded. You should be sensing water again. Do you?"

I definitely felt something. I nod again. "Who are you? How'd you get in here?"

Luuk shrugs. "I have powers-like you. I'll try to explain later, but I don't have much time before the next round of guards come through." He drops the blanket back into place and it ripples across my miniature bedroom. I remain absolutely still, listening as he treads softly around the rest of the room and breaks the collars for my cellmates.

Then he's gone.

I can't go back to sleep. The sense of water everywhere... that stupid hum of the force field...

I might as well put my wakefulness to good use. Might as well test this theory of his.

I mentally reach to the water in the toilet and follow the plumbing to each of the rooms until I can't reach any further, somewhere in another room outside this cellblock. I count the rooms by the number of toilets. Twelve rooms between our cell and the end of the hall.

There's an easy way to see if I'm imagining things, or if this whole having powers thing might be real after all. The next morning, on our way to the gym, I count the doors leading away from our cell.

Twelve rooms. My chest tightens and a cold sweat breaks out along the back of my neck.

Twelve rooms, just like I counted last night.

Powers are real.

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Thanks for reading! :-D

Come back next Monday for chapter eleven, involving a sneaky meeting with a friendly face...

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