Chapter Forty-Three

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When my eyes opened again, the air was cooler.

A slight breeze fell upon my skin, from somewhere that I couldn't see.

This time I was strapped down. I could feel the rough pieces of fabric digging into my skin as I tried moving my right arm. It was tied so tight that even that small amount of movement made it feel like my circulation was being cut off.

The edge of a face appeared above me. I couldn't turn my head to look at who it was, but I struggled against the straps a bit more in fear.

Then, a soft hand was placed against my bicep. "Honey...like I said, calm down...nothing's happening to you."

I stopped my struggle as I recognized the familiar voice. It was the woman who had found me when I'd made my way out of the first room I'd been in.

Now that I actually was thinking about it, I realized just how different this room was. Instead of all of the black designs, there was just a metal wall above my head. It looked completely normal, nothing out of the ordinary. I felt the straps on my arms, legs, and forehead loosen as the woman next to me released them. "I'm sorry about all of this...," she muttered, like they were simply an everyday annoyance. She struggled to pull all of them away and shove them to the floor. "It was a necessary precaution in case you attacked me the moment you woke up."

I sat up on the bed, and pushed a strand of hair out of my eyes. I felt light headed and was desperate to get out of the room. It felt like a trap, despite what the woman was saying. I couldn't keep calm because all I could think about was being shot with a tranquilizer dart. Twice.

"What do you want from me?" I asked her. I found myself glaring, which I lessened after a moment because of how harmless she seemed.

"Someone will inform you of everything in a couple minutes...let's just get you up and to the meeting area," the woman said, ignoring my glare. She smiled at me like I wasn't five seconds away from attacking her so I could escape. "My name's Jasmine, by the way."

She walked to the metal door, gesturing for me to follow her. I got up off of the bed and went along with whatever was happening. Usually, I wouldn't be so obedient in a situation such as this one, but a part of me was extremely curious. Maybe she wasn't lying.

Maybe this was the Equator...

And if so, what did that mean for all of us? Were we finally safe?

I stopped myself from getting my hopes up. Hope was a dangerous thing; it convinced you that everything would be okay before breaking your heart. I'd learned over time to stop trusting in hope.

We walked down a hall, and took a right, into another identical one. Here, everything felt bland. The black designs were replaced by plain metal walls. Rather than just gray, the paneling varied between dark bronze and silver as we walked. Finally, Jasmine paused at a door that looked a lot like the one I'd just come out from.

"I'm pretty sure they're all waiting for you in there...," she said, as her hand gripped the handle. "Please, do not attack any of my colleagues, I promise, it will not end well for you." Her threat was vague, and only increased my distrust for whoever these people were.

She opened the door, and I stared into a metal room with six people standing in it. Two of them were guards, holding guns and standing on opposite sides of the room, while the other four were familiar faces that I couldn't be happier to see.

"Calestia," January said happily before running over and hugging me. I hugged her back immediately, glad to finally see her again. It was funny how I hadn't actually talked to her in a while, even though we'd all been together.

"You're going to suffocate her," Jadyn commented as January let go and I walked towards the other three.

"What's going on?" I asked, feeling my smile beginning to fade. The other two faces in the room were Mace's and Asten's. They looked just as lost as I did. Loud footsteps echoed in from the hallway, and they were cut off from answering by a man walking into the room. He had a buzz cut, but from the little hair he had, I could tell it was dark red. His skin was tan with multiple darker lines slashing through it, which I could only guess to be scars.

"Hello. I'm glad you all could make it," the man said in an authoritative tone. He crossed his muscular arms, making him look even more like a stereotypical military general. The only difference between him and one was how slim he was, even with his gigantic muscles.

I was going to point out the fact that we also didn't exactly have a choice about whether or not to come, but he continued talking. "My name's Agent Mika. You all were scavenged from the Wild by our own, and because we did you that favor, you now owe us one."

Asten raised his eyebrows and cut Agent Mika off before he could keep talking. "The Wild?" he asked, not understanding. I'd heard the term used before, too, by Jasmine.

"The Wild is what we here at the Equator like to call everything that's uncivilized territory. Meaning everywhere except the Equator. But don't worry, you'll learn a lot more about this in training." He stared at us, making sure we all understood. I doubted any of us did. Mostly, I wasn't speaking because I had no idea what he meant and I needed more of an explanation.

"But what matter's most is the fact that you're a part of our team now. The five of you are now a unit. Unit X."

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