Chapter 25 - Whim and a Prayer

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"Are you crazy? I'm not taking you to Shasta." Tobin kept his voice low, but I could tell it was taking effort for him to not shout at me.

Gord joined in, "You're not thinking clearly."

I shot Gord a glare. Who was he to be criticizing me? He had known me for a few hours. "You can take me, or I'll go on my own."

Tobin crossed his arms while he considered me. After everything we had been through, he must be weighing how far I was willing to go.

Nothing had ever felt more right. If we had no hope of stopping the payment, then making sure Tel-Eile had medication was the least I could do. I'd find my mother, Eluena, and Edith, and we'd escape together.

Tobin must have read my thoughts. "I think you're overestimating how easy it will be to escape."

He didn't think I could do it, and I pressed my lips into a line, my jaw tight. "I broke out of the Hole. You don't think I can break out of Shasta?"

His doubt bothered me more than I wanted to admit, and his unwillingness to understand how I couldn't abandon my mother and friends was exasperating. There was no way I could just walk away and save myself. I wasn't Mindy.

Tobin and Gord shared a look. They knew something, and my hand itched to grab another branch to throw. Gord then gave Tobin a shrug as if to say 'it's your call.'

"When Offerings enter Shasta they are taken into a facility partially for quarantine reasons and partially to make you dependent on Shasta." Tobin was doing that calm and kind thing again, and I could feel my frustration about to boil over.

His words weren't making sense. Quarantine I understood, but making me feel dependent on Shasta? I'd never need them. Shaking my head, I said, "What do you mean 'dependent on Shasta'?"

"He means they'll fuck with your head, dear." Sienna walked up next to Gord. She had been silent until now, and I felt like she was sneering at me, her blunt cut bangs mocking me with their sassiness.

My back stiffened. I wanted to ignore her. I wanted to take a verbal swipe at her, but I couldn't ignore what she said. "They torture us?" I addressed Sienna, but then I refocused on Tobin. He and Gord were the ones with the answers.

"Torture is a harsh word. I don't think they physically torture the women and children. That would be too risky for them. They want healthy girls. But they want you under control," Tobin said.

Under control.

The words set off a flare of emotions within me. Thoughts of manacles, Jeffrey's unwanted hand on my knee, and the burn of the needle jab in my arm flashed through my mind.

I swallowed as my stomach churned. "How will they get me under control?" I gritted out the words.

"If you go. They'll prep you for quarantine, and then they create an environment that will make you lose your bearings. I don't know how they do that, but I know the girls coming out of the facility seem dazed and even a bit simple." He looked to Gord as if to see if there was anything to add.

"See. Like I said, they fuck with your head. They want our bodies, not our minds. For all they care, they can reduce our brains to mush as long as we are docile," she said. Tobin glared at Sienna. "What?"

I crumpled to the ground, bits of the branches I had smashed dug into me.

I couldn't leave them in there. Hearing about what will happen to the three of them convinced me that I had to go, but also that any effort would be futile. Failure was imminent. "There has to be a way," I said it mostly to myself.

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