Chapter Three

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Nia tosses an apricot in her palm, almost sending it to the ceiling with her enhanced strength, but she catches it easily. "We're four teens. I just graduated. How much good can we do?"

That's a question I'd like an answer to, too.

"I don't know," I admit, "but we'll figure out something. It might take time, but we will. None of you had heard about beasts before, right? Even you, Luuk? Your brother is the one who told you?"

"Right." Luuk returns his empty soup bowl to the table. It's scraped clean. "From what I know, my family thought we were going to be treated."

"So there's a chance even the higher ups in the Community don't know what's going on," I point out. "If we can get through to them, maybe they'll shut down the scans and not send anyone else to those facilities."

"But why are they making beasts in the first place?" Erin's quiet voice sends a shiver crawling down my spine. "That's the real question."

We all turn to face her.

There's supposed to be world peace. There's no reason to have a beast army, unless that "world peace" bit is a lie, too. David said the outside world was destroyed, but if that's the case, same problem.

Who needs an army if there's nothing to fight?

When David returns, he has a white, boxy scanner in hand, like the one Luuk's brother used to test our powers in the facility. "You were scanned up there" -he nudges his head toward the mountain road- "but I'm guessing they didn't tell you what they recorded."

I frown, my mind still on the reason the Community might need beasts. Why not train soldiers instead?

Luuk drums his fingers on the arms of the couch. "No, they didn't tell us. That'd defeat their whole 'keep us in the dark' thing."

David nods sympathetically. "Seeing as they couldn't be bothered to tell you, and we need to figure out how to best put your skills to use, I scan everyone who enters the Kariz." He holds up the scanner and smiles a little too broadly. "We'll help you hone your powers so you can be at your most efficient."

I cross my arms. The idea's practical. But now that I've had food-and I'm not aching from head to toe-I have places to be and answers to wring from David like wringing a towel that got dropped in a pool. That said, maybe he'll be more willing to help me get those answers if I cooperate.

"I'll go first." I push myself to my feet and relax when they don't hurt. I situate myself over the worn piece of black tape David indicates on the floor in the center of the room.

He adjusts a knob on his scanner. "Now that you're not wearing those shielded collars, this should go smoothly."

"Shielded collars?" I ask.

"Yeah, the collars have basic shields in them. They're artifacts that block your powers." At least some information he seems happy to share, even if he's insistent we'll be satisfied in the Kariz. "Basic shields are small, and they block your powers on skin contact. Larger ones have a range, but good luck getting one of those. They're expensive. There's also adominogen, which blocks your powers if you ingest it, but doesn't prevent powers from acting on you. You've probably used it in pill form, being from the Community, but it's also found in injections, or as an aerosol. There's also a rare shielding power that's a complete pain to scan." He gives me a knowing smile.

Hissing gas seething from the Special Forces agent's grenade...

Adominogen? Was the gas they used in the smoke grenades the same thing as the pills we've been taking since we were kids? That would explain why I started noticing the water acting weird once I stopped taking the pill. And... "My water power faded after coming close to one of their grenades," I tell him. Give a little info, take a little info.

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