Chapter Sixteen

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I trip over someone's foot in the pitch black Propaganda Detection room.

"Sorry..." I follow Leah to my usual seat and take it before I can harm anyone else.

"We should start calling you Grace," Leah whispers. I roll my eyes, though I know she can't see them in the dark.

"Alright, Trainees," Sam says as he walks in and closes the door. I shift uncomfortably in my seat: I haven't forgotten our last encounter. "Today we have a very special video to dissect."

Groans spot the room.

"Hey!" Sam roars.

Silence.

"Wonder why he's so pissed all the time?" Leah jabs me with her elbow. I shrug.

"Anyways," Sam continues. "A new tidbit of propaganda was released just yesterday. The man you will see in today's video is named John Elliot. We don't know much about him, of course, but as warriors for the Depot you are all expected to brainstorm any possibilities."

Is it just my imagination, or is Sam smirking at me? He touches the large screen and it comes to life, paused on a hefty man. His large fingers are intertwined and his fists rest on a metal desk. His short, graying hair, smart suit, and squinted eyes give him the illusion of being a grumpy, no-nonsense person. When Sam plays the video, I discover that his voice gives that illusion as well. Though I've never seen him before, something in his face feels familiar.

"Greetings, Members of New York. As you all know I am John Elliot, Executive of Region Six. This quick announcement shouldn't distract you too long from carrying out your duties, which I'm sure is a pleasure. A month prior to this telecast, the Graduation Ceremonies of 2030 occurred across the Region. We'd faced an unfortunate setback we never had to face before." Suddenly, a picture appears to the right of John.

A picture of me, running away from Mr. Sykes in the AGD lobby.

Everyone in the room turns to face me, mouths agape. Leah grips my arm and my heart begins to pound furiously. John Elliot continues in his droning tone, but everyone in the room still stares at me.

"Enna Price, an AGD graduate, fled her school at 6:37 on Sunday evening. We ask all of you to keep an eye out for her. If she is found, bring her directly to the nearest government official. It doesn't matter what you have to do to get her. Bottom line, we want to make sure she is safe. Thank you all for your cooperation: you may go back to your duties now." The screen shuts off but I still stare at it so I don't have to look at the countless people craning their necks to see me. The exaggerated attention warms my cheeks.

"So," Sam begins. "What do you think was wrong with that video?" He wears a satisfied smile, and I wonder if he is using this "lesson" as a way to embarrass me after I visited the Security Quarter without permission. My blood boils, and a boy at the front of the room raises his hand. "Yes?"

"He said at the end of the video that they want to find Enna so she can be safe. But they must be lying. They will probably do something terrible to her if they find her."

Was that supposed to make me feel better?

"Good job, Tyler," Sam says, nodding. He begins to discuss John's techniques for brainwashing the public but I can't bear to listen. I'd expected my escape to be all over the news, but they seem to be after me now, specifically. Why? Why aren't they after Leah too? She escaped the school as well!

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