Chapter Forty-Four

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The black designs had returned. After giving us a brief announcement, Agent Mika led us down the hall into a new room covered in them. I didn't really understand it – it wasn't very visually attractive, but whoever built the place apparently thought so. Agent Mika quickly someone else coming to offer more details on Unit X, before leaving with the sharp click of a lock. I felt anxiety swell up in me at the thought of being trapped in this room. My only solace was that I wasn't alone.

Mace stared at the door with an odd expression on his face, like he was lost in his own thoughts. Asten sighed and ran a hand through his hair while Jadyn jumped down onto one of the two couches in the room. At the same time, January, sat down calmly on the edge of the other. There were no weapons, no doors...nothing to help us escape if need be. Only the black designs on white walls, a red-tiled floor and two bright red couches.

Should we even escape? I mean...I this was the Equator, we were safe, right?

"Does anyone know what's going on here?" January asked when no one spoke. Her head was in her hands, and she seemed slightly disturbed.

"Apparently we made it to the Equator," I responded.

"Were taken," Mace corrected.

"Yea..." The room fell once again into silence, and I sat down by January.

"Whatever's going on...doesn't feel right. I feel like they're not telling us something...," Asten muttered. "Plus, why would they lock us in here if they trusted us? Or if they wanted us to trust them?"

"Well, they did kind of tranq us to get us here. I'm pretty sure that's a good reason to feel doubts about this place," Jadyn commented. She looked the least anxious of everyone at the moment.

I didn't get how she could be so calm.

"And they seem kinda shady," I offered.

"Then we should get out." Mace looked two seconds away from walking over to the door and knocking it down himself, despite the lock. "We can't stay here." He locked eyes with January. "We've survived as the Snow Society on our own, we can continue surviving."

I could read the unsaid words in their look. And it's our responsibility to take care of them.

I felt a pang of guilt. It was Asten and I who pushed to come here. In a way, I was responsible for the cage we were in.

Asten sighed and looked at the door. "Even if we wanted to...I don't think we can get out."

"There has to be a way," Mace retorted. "There always has to be something..." His frustration was visible in his features.

I leaned back, arms crossed. Sadly, Asten was right. Sometimes, there just wasn't a way around things. Sometimes, the only option was to breathe and push through.

"This place reminds me of my old room...the black, white, and red....," January said softly after a couple seconds. She looked up at the ceiling then around at the walls, contemplatively.

Her comment made me think back to happier days, before the apocalypse, when the world was still normal, and people could still go to school or hang out with their friends whenever they wanted to. I hadn't actually thought about that world for a while. Everything was so different now...it was hard to even imagine a world such as that existed.

"I used to have a room that was all blue...blue beanbag chairs and walls. Everything." Mace looked up at January, and I could tell that he was barely smiling. It was weird to see on him. "Although, the posters on the wall broke up the blue a bit. I was into music."

January smiled. "Where'd you live?"

"Ohio."

"I'm from Pennsylvania," January replied.

"Rhode Island," Jadyn cut in, seeing as everyone was answering the question. I would've answered, but they'd seen my destroyed neighborhood.

"I'm from New York. But my family also has a house in California, Florida, Central America...," he said.

"Huh, you're rich then?" Jadyn asked him, raising her eyebrows.

"I mean....I guess..." He seemed really awkward about the topic. "Not anymore obviously."

"Obviously...," Mace muttered in agreement.

"Can I call you Rich Boy?" Jadyn added with a smirk. "Or would you prefer Boy spelled with an i at the end to make it sound more...rich boyish. You know?"

"Knock yourself out," Asten replied, looking like he didn't care too much.

"Bad word choice...," I said, referring to the multiple times we literally had been knocked out in the past day.

"Someday, when this is all over, we should all properly go to a movie theater. Or a restaurant." January was smiling now, no longer looking sad and lost in memories. Her idea was a wild hope, one that we all knew was impossible. If the situation had gotten so bad that the government bombed entire neighborhoods, it was likely there weren't many movie theaters or restaurants left. The only ones might be in the Equator, but as we were already learning, we weren't sure we could trust them.

"Yea," I agreed anyway, allowing that hope to live. It was nice to think someday there could be an end to this.

Before anybody else could talk, the door flew open. A guy with square glasses, messy blond hair and dimples stood there, looking frazzled. He brushed his hair back with a hand and held a clipboard in the other. He was quite scrawny compared to Agent Mika. "Hello, trainees. I'm Agent Choles and I've been assigned to set you all up." He nervously scribbled something down before kicking the door shut and walking closer to us all on the couch. I stared in confusion. He was so...human.

Suddenly, he pulled a contraption from his back pocket. It was a syringe, but oddly bigger than a usual one. "As Agent Mika probably told you, you guys make up Unit X. Congratulations on surviving long enough in the Wild to make it here. Seriously. But don't be alarmed. I just have to....ah...."

He began fiddling with the device, letting his speech trail off. I was glad because I was busy trying to figure out what he was doing. Why was he acting so casual about the fact that we'd been captured and forced into this position? And what on Earth was he planning with that syringe?

I swear...if that thing came near me...

"Great." He said it in a way that gave off the opposite. Finally, he slammed something into the device and sighed. "Okay, thank you...for working...I hate these things..." Without missing a beat, he walked over to Mace who cringed away. Before Mace could fight it, he slammed the syringe into his neck.

"Hey!" January shouted, standing up from her position on the bed. Mace tried pulling away, but it was too late. He already had been injected with whatever was in the device. He rubbed the injection point on his neck as all of us backed further away from Agent Choles. I looked around the room again, trying to find something to attack him with, but there was nothing.

"Geez...okay...you all don't have to flip out...," Choles said, holding up his hands like he hadn't attacked Mace. "These are just trackers. I told you. And they told you. You're one of us now. This is how it works whether you like it or not." His face grew serious, no longer the awkward person that had first walked in the room.

And he was right. Whether we liked it or not, we were stuck with these people. And if they weren't lying about this being the only refuge left in the world...

We were stuck in the Equator.

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