Chapter Nineteen

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The next morning, Rachel awoke to someone shaking her. She'd slept on a couch that Debra had pulled out of the wall inside her office. She'd said Rachel would stay there for the night only until they could assign her a room.

Rachel opened her eyes and saw Debra standing in front of her looking bright eyed and bushy-tailed and with that ever-present chipper smile plastered on her face.

"What's going on?"

"It's time for the last part of your testing. This is so exciting!" She enthused. Debra fiddle with a wall in her room, sifting through various clips of nature until she settled on one with sprawling, green hills and a cheery sunrise. The entire wall became engulfed in the picture and it was almost like being outside except that the still image couldn't quite capture the real beauty of the sun's rays or the dust particles that floated in the air or even the real color and feeling of grass under bare feet.

Stretching out the kinks in her body, she rose and followed a gibbering Debra out of her office. "Put this on, honey, you're going to need it where you're going."

They stopped outside a door that said restroom in stiff, white letters and had a blue sign of a stick figure woman in a dress. Rachel went inside and splashed some cool water onto her face to chase away the last of the sleep from her body. She dressed in the thermal bodysuit and emerged from the room, feeling energized.

She was looking forward to getting this last test over with, especially since the mention of simulations had her nerves on end and she just wanted it to be done with once and for all.

"Some people get a little queasy with the test because of the moving, virtual reality and all that jazz so it's really up to you if you want to eat something first or not. You got a strong stomach, Rachel?"

"No- not really." She replied, remembering the time she had thrown up after watching her people be shot dead in front of her.

"These simulations- the one I was in before, it all felt so real. How do you do it?"

"Holograms." Debra replied.

"Holo-what?"

"Oh! I forget you're not from around here!" Debra laughed. "It's a virtual reality created by manipulated images. None of it is real, but your eyes see it so it creates the illusion of being there. A part of your brain is also tricked into thinking you can hear, feel and smell certain things. Just keep all that in mind today, okay?"

They rode the elevator and her stomach turned at the drop. Finally, the elevator dinged and the doors opened onto the simulation floor.

Sour memories rushed into her mind at the sight of the grey walls but she pushed it all down. She had to focus if she planned on joining the soldier ranks in order to save the compound children and discover what had happened to Jed once and for all.

"Here we are. Just go inside when you're ready and they'll tell you what to do. Good luck!"

Rachel heard the click-clacking of Debra's heels grow fainter and fainter until all that was left was the sound of her breathing. She steeled herself and drew her finger over the metal doors which complied to let her in.

Everything was dark beyond and a small light flickered over the place where she stood.

"Welcome, Rachel." A voice said from hidden speakers in the ceiling. The voice sounded like Abby and that brought a new scowl to Rachel's face. She hadn't had the chance to interact with that woman since she'd seen her last in another simulation but Rachel didn't like her and wasn't keen on the thought of this woman being the one to administer her test.

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