20 - New Numbers

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 My astonished verbal reaction toward the room spews out as a jumbled mess. None of the words I say belong in a dictionary.

The supposed "head" of this "Sector A" place latches his hand over my breathing device and violently yanks it free from my face as if that will reassemble my brain to make sense. It only sets it free on an out of control teacup ride. Plus, he didn't turn on any vents.

"There a problem?" he asks, his intricate turquoise eyes narrowing. "You can breathe without the device here. This room has air. Eventually, you won't need the device at all, but you need to adjust slowly. Your lungs are used to oxygen."

I release the large breath I'd been holding in, only half-comprehending what he just said. "You're not...expecting me to stay here."

The room is cut in half by a wall of steel bars. Within the cell itself sits an oddly-shaped, single bed which is topped with a white comforter and a white pillow. On the unrestricted side, there's a standalone countertop and numerous cabinets tucked into the walls around it. There are no windows. No electronics. No life. It's silent.

I'm going to go crazy in here.

"It's your room when you're not being examined," he explains.

My mouth drops and I shake my head in disbelief. "You're kidding me," I say as the news sinks in. "You're kidding me!"

He shrugs. "Those are the rules."

I hold back the urge to shove him. "Rules? What rules? I didn't ask to come here, wherever this is, wherever I am! And now I'm—"

"You're on Mars," he corrects me without a blink.

My body goes erect and still. "What did you say?"

"You're not on Earth anymore."

I exhale a shaky breath and start to wobble my head back and forth, trying to snap out of whatever dream my brain won't give up on. Mars? Of all places, he's going to tell me that I'm on Mars? Does he think I'm stupid? I stomp over to him and clutch the chest area of his suit. "Why am I—" My sentence cuts short with a shriek, and I cringe as he snatches my wrists and twists them around, incapacitating me.

"Are you done?"

Horrified, I glance down at our entanglement, wincing at the pain of his nails digging into my skin.

"Don't touch me again," he warns, and releases me.

I analyze my wrists and red welts have formed in the crescent shapes of his nails. But as I stare, they vanish before my eyes. He decides to take a look before backing away, appearing as shocked as me.

"It is you," he whispers, though I hear him clear as day. "Your blood test is not waiting until tomorrow." He digs around in his tiny pockets, and I know he's searching for a tranquilizer, a needle to stab me with—I'm sure of it.

I dart across the room to avoid unconsciousness. "Get away from me!" I warn. "I'm not going to be unconscious again!"

Just as I'd thought, he pulls out a tiny syringe. "Get over here," he growls through his teeth. "You aren't."

Now's the time I wish I'd participated in school sports; I'd have the skills to fake him out if he tried to grab me.

He bolts over and I can't help but yelp. I move to the right, but he snatches me with ease. "Let go of me!" I squeal. "Don't! Don't—"

He plunges the needle into my arm without warning and I cry out in pain at the prick as I watch glowing red blood fill the needle. When it's up to the brim with my blood, he plucks it out and I ram my elbow into his side, knocking him unstable for a moment. "Asshole," I grunt, and press my hand against the injection site to help the ache subside.

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