The Real Threat

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When someone knocks on the door a few hours later, there's a crick in my neck, and my butt is numb.

"Come in," I manage to say, even though my throat is hoarse and dry.

Rivers pops his head in, motioning me out.

"Let's go, Austin. Day's over."

On the screen, there's a half-finished plan, riddled with errors and empty spaces. There's so much left to finish that the thought crosses my mind that I should stay. Yet, I still have tomorrow. It can wait one day.

I follow him out the door, carrying one of the books from the shelf under my shoulder. It's a rebinding of an ancient looking novel.

Rivers drops me off at the bunks, telling he that he won't be here to walk me to work in the morning.

"You're a big boy, I think you can handle it," he says with a smile.

"What time should I be there?" I ask, returning the smile.

"Seven sharp," he yells as he walks away, towards the Living District.

Inside, the chaos has returned, making me miss the quiet of my office. Everyone is out of uniform, sitting around in their pajamas. Tonight, I have a better opportunity to look at them all as I walk through the crowd. Men are still playing cards or arm wrestling in the floor between bunks. Some half-dressed women are lounging around with their tablets, whispering to one another. Two individuals are locked in what looks like a make-out session, arms and legs tangled together, while his friends cheer him on.

What catches my attention is their age.

No one here is over twenty. That's why it's so chaotic. We are a bunch of kids living under one roof. At twenty, most people get married and move off to the Living District. Even if you're not married, you still move away from the BT bunks. I guess they just grow out of it.

"Well, hey, Q."

I look up, catching sight of Lexi, legs dangling over the edge of her bunk. She's kicked her shoes off onto my bed, as well as her uniform.

"Hey, Lex," I say, waving. She catches sight of the book under my arm, rolling her eyes.

"You brought home work?"

"Yeah, I have this plan I have to finish tomorrow about the-"

The word 'attack' catches in my throat. Rule number four: never talk about the things I do. It seemed so natural to tell Lexi. After all, I tell her everything else. I shut my mouth, trying to think up a lie as fast as I can.

"About the... recent rise in reassignment."

Lexi watched me, squinting her eyes. The sweat beads at the base of my hairline around my neck. Eternities pass as she scrutinizes me.

"Sounds boring," she says, finally, jumping down to stand beside me.

"How was your first day?" Naomi asks, as she walks up from behind me, carrying her uniform. She's changed into shorts, the kind that are embarrassingly short for guys to wear, and an oversized t-shirt. If she wasn't carrying her clothes, I'm sure her shirt would cover the shorts.

"It was pretty good," I say, sitting down on my bed. "Yours?"

She takes a deep breath and launches into this lengthy explanation about how she learned the proper way to sterilize equipment when you're out on the field and don't have the right chemicals. None of it is new to me, but I listen intently, watching the way her dark eyes seem to dance as she talks.

"Tomorrow, I get to learn how to take vitals without using a machine," she says, clapping her hands together. When she does, Lexi snorts from where she's sitting beside me. "Can I practice on you guys? Please? It won't hurt; I promise."

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