23 - H E A D / G A M E S

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Number One quickly stretches the large machine out around my face. He lines my skull up between two cold metal bars as if I'm getting an X-ray done and gently straps me in so I can see perfectly through the binocular-like holes.

"You know, I could just tell you what my vision is, instead of going through all of this," I suggest once the discomfort of the latch sets in. "20-20."

He doesn't seem to care much about what I've said because he continues with the process. "Read the first line, just to see if everything is hooked correctly."

I don't have to squint at all to see the jumbo holographic letters in my field of vision. Nothing in this room is visible aside from the 3D words he's programmed for me to visualize. It's a shuffle of words you'd find on a kindergartener's vocabulary list.

Given the wonderful attitude he's shown toward me, I decide to give him a hard time and make up my own set of words to read. "You. Are. A. Jerk," I answer him, reading what I feel, rather than what I see.

He makes an unsatisfied sound, but I'm not able to see his expression. Still, I can't help but smirk behind the lenses.

"Cooperate, Number Five," he warns. "Think of the consequences. Now read the next one."

What are the consequences? No one has mentioned any. I can't imagine there's much worse than sitting in a cell all day, which is what I do regardless. What more could they do to me? If I'm not mistaken, I feel like I'm important to them. Does it have to do with me being immune?

The words are exceedingly tiny now, but if I squint just a tad, I can see them. Still, I decide to play dirty. "My. Name. Is. Aurora."

Number One is quiet for a few seconds as he juggles the choice of either stopping this exam, finally listening to me, or continuing. Eventually, he flips to another slide and asks me to read a third time.

"No."

"Just tell me if you can see the words clearly," he counters.

"Yup, I can."

Line after line, he doesn't wait for me to actually read the lines, just wonders if I can. That is until the words morph into black specs, which is when the exam comes to an end. I sense his fingers at my neck and tense up as he unhooks me from the machine. He is silent as he does this, and moves slowly, carefully when he's near. When Number One walks around in front of me to lift the machine back up to the ceiling, I feel instant relief. He then gaits over to the back wall with a white slip in his hand and inserts it into some rectangular slot, like a check at an ATM. "The computer is further analyzing your results at the moment." The white paper spits back out at him and I observe his eyes as he reads over whatever it says. "Well..."

"Well, what exactly?" I inquire.

He crumples the paper up and tosses it to the corner of the room. "Your vision is better than Stella's. Hers was the best here. Guess that has changed." He moves over to me and meets my eyes. "Hers reads about 20/10, which is a lot better than average. But you could possibly be beyond 20/5."

My eyebrows raise, a little shocked at the news. Last time I went to the doctor, that was certainly not the result. My vision was never bad, but 20/5 is a little ambitious, am I right? World record worthy. Eagle-worthy.

Hearing is next, and the process is just as tedious and annoying as the vision test, but at least I'm not sitting in my cell doing absolutely nothing. When the results come back this time, he doesn't seem to be as surprised as before. He holds a pretentious grin when he tells me I'm ranked third. Zeriah has the best, then him, and then me. None of this matters to me, so I don't react one way or the other.

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