Chapter Eleven

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Powers are real.

At first, I can't wrap my mind around that idea. How can they be real? How can the Community have kept that a secret?

But during the next exercise routine, it's clear something is different. The doctors ramp up the running and the push-ups, forcing us to the edge of our capabilities. But Nia, who had a hard time doing anything yesterday? She blazes through the first few push-ups, and then realizes from the surprised looks of the doctors that maybe she should fake being terrible after the first set came so easily.

During our break, I hustle past the agents spaced around the perimeter to get to the water fountain. Before I even lean in to get my drink, the fountain shudders, water trying to force itself through the pipes to quench my aching thirst. I quickly press the bar to keep it from making a scene, and water nearly overshoots the basin.

Thankfully, no one but Anitra notices. Her eyes widen and she meets my gaze, surprised.

I have no idea what she or Erin can do, but one thing is evident from how we each react to the things the others do: if this is a hallucination, it's a mass hallucination.

Once we get back to the room, Nia grins, pacing while the rest of us groan and find a place to sit our aching muscles. "Did you see that?" She stretches and lets out a happy sigh. "My legs don't even hurt. This feels great. What about you three?"

"It's different for me, too," I say, careful not to specify why. Though Luuk seemed to think he could mess with anything that was listening in, he's not here now, and I wouldn't put it past the agents to bug our cell, or our collars.

"I agree," Erin lowers her eyes and clutches her knees to her chest. "I wish it wasn't."

"Really?" Nia raises an eyebrow. "I'm glad to feel back to my old self."

Erin shakes her head. "I took the pills because they actually made me feel better. But I'm glad it's working for you."

"To each her own." Nia shrugs and plops beside Anitra before lightly punching her in the shoulder. "What about you?"

Anitra merely wrings her hands, one foot on the bench and the other leg stretched out as she stares at the ceiling. "He was right," she murmurs. "And yes, it's definitely... different." She wets her lips, and then sighs. "We've been deceived. What does that mean for us?" She cranes her neck and looks up at Nia. "It won't be long before they start taking us away. Once they do..." Her words hang in midair.

They'll turn us into beasts, is what Luuk said.

They're already treating us like ones.

"Let's rest up," I say firmly. They all turn to look at me. "That way we'll be ready for anything... including the right opportunities."

We still don't know how to get out of here, but if we stay vigilante, like a lifeguard at a beach, maybe the right opportunity will present itself. After all, Luuk gave us the first step toward arming ourselves. He gave us back our powers.

We spend the rest of the afternoon practicing as best we can without being obvious. As soon as we get back from our evening exercises, though the hallway lights haven't yet dimmed, we settle in for the night. I roll under the bench before Erin can protest that it's my turn to sleep up top.

Really, I don't mind.

If she was my sister, I wouldn't have given her a choice in the matter. I stare at the solid block of concrete above my head. Now that I know the truth, I'm not so sure I want my sister taking the pills. It's clear that even if she does, she might end up here.

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