Chapter Twenty Nine

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I rub my sweaty palms on my pants and head towards the Dining Room for dinner. Fight training today was easy, as expected. No longer did I see Mark's face instead of the metallic one, and no longer did I need Leah to spot me. In fact, it seemed that I had an easier time with my droid than other people did.

After training I had looked everywhere in the Facility for Matthew, but he was nowhere to be found. I wonder how he'll react to the news of his promotion; just the thought makes my stomach dance. I step into the Dining Room and grab a tray, walking down the line. I pile my plate with mashed potatoes, a small chicken breast, and little, bright green vegetables that look like shrunken trees.

The rows upon rows of wooden tables are occupied by rowdy-looking people, and I feel a little uneasy. Tonight, I want to eat in silence. Unbidden, the image of a dark room filled with screens comes to mind: the Security Quarter. I know I'm not supposed to be there, but I've done it once before without being caught. Why not again? I sneak out of the Dining Room with my tray and speedily walk through the tunnels that lead me to the Security Quarter. Once I reach the door, I peer inside the tiny window. No one is here at the moment.

Quietly, I twist the handle and step inside. The countless screens on the wall distract me and I lay my plate of food on the table next to the door, forgotten. One of the screens shows a young, blond girl in a dormitory at the Academy of Global Doctrines: I recognize the brown paint and windowless walls. I swipe my finger across the image and it becomes larger. For a while, I watch the girl who sits boredly on her bed, staring at a textbook. Occasionally, she glances up at the camera, her eyebrows tugging in with disapproval. I recognize the symptoms of paranoia, and instantly I know that whoever else is watching her will be keeping a careful eye on her.

I boredly scan the other screens, and the one reading "Radio Recordings" catches my eye. Curious, I swipe it and a list with five names and corresponding dates appears:

Kevin Price 2029

Lena Jackson 2027

Robert Ellis 2025

Gale McAllister 2016

James Hobner 2015

My next breath catches in my throat and my finger hovers over the name "Kevin Price". My father. Now I remember what my mother said:

"He was using a radio to communicate with us, and it sounded like he found an important file. While he was trying to escape with it, he started shouting random things and we lost the signal. To this day, he and his squad discovered the most about the government's agenda."

My father's recording wasn't lost: it had been in the Security Quarter's files since last year! If it contains such Earth-shattering revelations, then why doesn't anybody know about it? Is the Depot trying to keep it hidden?

My heart thudding in my ears, I touch the "play" button next to the date with a trembling finger. At first I hear a confusing, scratchy noise and the sound of someone running, then my dad's voice. He whispers, sounding panicked and on the verge of sobbing. Chills run down my spine.

"This is Kevin Price from Squad 116. I repeat, this is Kevin Price from Squad 116. I'm here at the mission destination, and I--" he gulps "--I don't think I'm making it back. Listen, uh... I found some stuff and I just... I don't know, this is freaking me out. For those of you who are listening, you cannot trust any one source for information. The Depot, it's... it's not safe. Nowhere is: you have to hide, go undercover, you understand? These politicians... They aren't the ones leading us, it's--"

Suddenly, the audio becomes loud and irritating; only disconnected, shouted words come across the signal along with what sounds like ... growls.

"Listen... Alice... daughter... Elliot... human... please..." After that, the recording shuts off. Shudders, one after another, jolt my entire body until I can't handle it anymore, and tears slowly build in my eyes until it's impossible to see through them.

No. I will not cry. I have to be strong for my father, and for Mark, and for all of the Members who have their lives controlled against their own will. I memorize all of the names on the list and close the program. After taking a deep, controlled breath, I stand and leave the room, carrying the forgotten dinner back to my dorm.

* * *

"Are you alright, Enna? You look terrible." Leah comments as soon as I close the door behind me. "Why didn't you eat your dinner? Does it taste better in here, or something?"

"I'm fine. I, uh, wanted to eat in silence." I sit down on my bed and shovel mashed potatoes into my mouth, not really tasting them.

"Well it won't be silent in here, because I've got something to tell you," she says energetically, changing into her sleeping clothes.

"Alright, then." She sits up against her bed pillow.

"Luke and I are getting pretty serious. He told me that... Well, he told me that he can't stop thinking about me." She smiles so large that I'm surprised her cheeks don't tear. Oh, God. I groan inwardly, remembering Luke's cruel laugh and the way he bragged about convincing Leah of his devotion to her. I also remember the reason he pretended to care about Leah in the first place: to get top secret Trainee information out of her. According to him, he already discovered the things he needed to know: I wonder if I could figure them out too.

"That's awesome," I say, forcing myself to smile. She grins back at me.

"I'm glad you're happy for me."

"Do you tell him things about your life?"

"Like what?"

"Oh, I don't know... Like, things about training?"

"Sure I do!"

"Like what?" I ask nonchalantly.

"Well, whatever he wants to know! He asks about upcoming missions, fight techniques, things we learn in Propaganda Detection..." Suddenly, she narrows her eyes. "Why?"

"No reason. I was just curious." My stomach churns as I lie.

"Okay, just making sure. You know, you certainly seem to read into these kinds of things a lot."

I certainly do indeed.

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