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I lean my forehead against the doors of the elevator. The fearful panic in my body faded away quickly, so now I don't know what to do. The Enhancement Project was bad enough, with its ability to command my limbs around like a toy. I'm not ready for a new demented game.

The elevator doors spring open, and I follow the hallways to my temporary apartment. I'm glad the hallway are barren and empty. Except I remember Nicolette and suddenly feel like I betrayed her for not worrying about her, too.

I shove my thumb on the PrintReader of my door, stepping into my room and stomping across the space to lay face-down on the sofa.

I stay in that position for too long to count. My brain rushes to figure out what I'm going to do. How can I fix this? I've got to tell Stephen, but will I get screened if I say a word of this out loud?

I really hope not. I've got to take the chance somehow. When the opportunity arises, I have to take it. As long as I'm discreet, I can get to Stephen and explain what's going on with me. We'll figure out how to solve this.

I push myself up, sitting upright on the soft cushions and shoving my hair out of my eyes. Glancing around the pristine room, I realize how screwed up the world really is. Beneath the shimmering city with its lawful people are secrets so vile I can't even believe them myself.

A quiet swoosh enters my ears. I twitch towards the apartment doors, spotting a shadow in the room. My heart skips three beats as instinct takes over.

I backpedal away from the sofa, nearly tripping over the furniture leg. The back of my head contacts the wall with a thump.

"Miss Holland Renner?" a voice asks. The shadow morphs into a man dressed rather plainly in black, a lower-class. A dark briefcase balances in his hands.

I cough to disguise my paranoia and stand up. "Uh, that's me?"

He looks me up and down. "I'm here to prepare you for the Equinox banquet. You know, the most important event of your life?"

His tone irks me when it really shouldn't. I pull my hands through my hair. It's not like I can kick him out or yell at him. "Okay."

He sets his case on the nearest surface and sprawls in open. "Excuse the slight mess. I've visited maybe thirty rooms already, and there's still more to go."

"Oh, wow," I say, sitting again on the couch. Pointless make-up time is about to begin. "You must have an interesting job."

"Oh, of course," he replies, sifting through his supplies. Much to my dismay, he starts swiping a whole load of products over my face, not saying much else. Before long he's curling my hair and telling me to fetch my dress from the closet.

"Okay, well that's it," he says. He snaps his briefcases shut and nods at his things.

"Thank you again," I lie. My stomach churns. I feel incredibly fearful of the Equinox banquet, not Stephen. At least not yet.

I give him a sincere goodbye as he exits the apartment just as quickly as he came. Once the doors spring closed, the familiar silence beats into my ears again.

Defeated, I circle around the apartment a few times, shaking my hands as if to ward off my shaky nerves. Then I remember I have to change into that dress, so I hurry into the bedroom. Out of the closet I pull a golden, floor-length dress. My eyebrows knit together as I frown. Never seen a sparkly gold dress before.

My mind bounces back to the Grand Rapids award ceremony so long ago. Dressing up like a trophy to receive some fake award. For being the ultimate Screener, for taking down rebels who invaded the city.

I cross my fingers and my toes. Let that please not happen again. Please.

I slip into the dress and its matching shoes, feeling the jitters again. How can I not be nervous all the time? I thought I'd get used to it after a while, but it's impossible. Once I zip up the dress, I begin pacing again.

"Attention all inductees," a booming voice says. Instinctively I press my shoulders against the nearest wall, which happens to be in the kitchen. I hear the doors of my apartment slither open. "Please report to the nearest elevator for the Equinox banquet."

The hall outside the door begins to fill with footsteps and a dull echo of voices. Everyone's going at once. It's my time to blend in instead of stick out.

I trudge around the corner and into the hall. The chatter is full of excitement and not much else. A girl smiles brightly at me, so I yank the corners of my lips up.

Yippee, I think to myself. I'm having a blast, an absolute fun time. Look at all these pretty golden dress and elegant gold suits. This is going to be such a great party! Let me stop and thank President Hybriad for all these gracious Equinox surprises.

Then I add a mental sidenote that turns my grin from synthetic to real. What a great way to keep people oblivious and happy, President Hybriad. Distract us with sparkly stuff, and we'll overlook all the wrongdoing of your much-too-controlling tactics.

I'm having too much fun with these thoughts. I'm a traitor alright, the Equinox got me all figured out. I'm a huge traitor, and I love to hate the world. I'm so unstable and break all the rules. Every one of them.

I feel my blood warming, and it's not the device in my neck doing it. It's my mean spirit, my traitorous ideas that would endure pain and suffering for freedom.

I load into a random elevator packed with ten or so other people. We've never been to a party before, so we're all so anxious and excited to see what this banquet will offer. It's our reward for succeeding in the Equinox.

I feel the sarcasm boiling. Besides, what was the Equinox's purpose, anyway? Ah, who cares! We passed them! Sparkles! Glitter! Golden stuff!

I snicker under my breath. I'm ready to fight back for real this time.

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fight back was the winner with 32 votes! you guys are so amazing, keep it up! your changing the plot quicker than i can kill off people lol...

just kidding about the killing part ;)

don't forget to enter the 250K Contest. comment any of your questions either on the "250K Contest" chapter i posted a few updates ago, or put them here.

comment HERE if you think you'll have enough time to enter and write a submission (deadline is January 23 at 11:59 PM that day)

comment HERE if you want more time or a prompt. ideas include writing from a new character POV in one of the cities, the Project, Equinox, or even in an existing character's POV. you can also put existing characters in different worlds/settings if you truly desire. poetry is acceptable as well.

okay, now let's get to that life-changing question.

Question: Choose an event: reunite and fight, try and die, or lucky ducky.

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