Chapter 17

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The door slams shut across the hall for the tenth time today

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The door slams shut across the hall for the tenth time today. I groan into my pillow, fisting my hands on the covers to stop myself from throwing my phone. Whose bright idea was it to install swinging doors? I appreciate the sliders more after this.

All morning long, the twins have been causing a ruckus. Their shoes shuffle across the floorboards, while they talk up a storm, up and down the hallways. And then Gio wakes up, and it just gets louder.

I know I could easily go out there and tell them to pipe down, but I'm afraid to face them—mainly Mika. I'm embarrassed and ashamed. If I'd known they would wake up this quickly, then I never would have worried about them. I never would have helped Mika. But what's done is done, and now I'm hiding in bed, praying to the stars they're sent back home so I don't have to face them.

My phone trills, telling me I got a text. Refusing to move my head off the pillow, my hand blindly searches for the phone on the nightstand in the dark, then swipe it open. The light blinds me for a second before I find Josh's name glaring back.

Lazy bum. Get up and suit up. We're training in T-Minus 15 min, the text reads.

Great. Looks like I can't avoid them any longer. Groaning, I roll out of bed, grab my uniform out of the duffle bag, and head for the bathroom. The stark lighting completely exposes the dark bags under my eyes and the bird's nest on my head. God, I look awful. I should take a shower, but there's no time.

After washing my face, I pull on the uniform. The jacket fits like a glove, sculpting over my body with every slight curve and muscle of my arms. I haven't worn this since I tried breaking into the laboratory, and from the way the pants fit, I might have to replace them soon. The material has thinned out from over self-stitching.

It's one of the many perks to this uniform. Since our bodies can heal on their own after we transition, the UFE invented a material that could stitch itself up. So far it's worked like a charm, protecting our skin as we continue fighting in battle.

I was envious when I was a child. We couldn't wear these uniforms until we transitioned, so after I did, Gregori personally brought mine as a birthday gift. He wrapped it inside a blue box with a giant blue ribbon tying it closed—the ribbon looked like another gift. I almost didn't want to open it until Junipea said, you think that ribbons pretty, wait until you see what's inside.

Those were the last good memories I have of Junipea before he died a few weeks later. Now I curse this uniform every time I look at.

After brushing out the tangles, I pull my hair up into a bun and then freeze. The plaster is gone. My tattoo is completely exposed for the world and anyone to see. When was the plaster removed? I swear I put one on after my shower yesterday.

Wait, what's going on? It looks different. I lean closer into the mirror, trying to maneuver around the marble countertop to get a clear image. Crap, it's not working. I frantically search through the bathroom drawers and the closet—nothing. There's no handheld mirror anywhere. Wait, there might be one in my room.

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