Chapter Three: Over the Fence

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The chain-link fence looked like a cage as it drew closer, looming larger with every step. Eliza's heart was beating in her ears, a war-drum of fear and excitement pounding through her whole body.

This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea. This is a bad idea.

The words were circling her mind in Joe's voice, her mother's voice, her father's voice.

She ignored them all.

Eliza didn't stop when she reached the fence, instead using a protruding stone to launch herself halfway up. She climbed like a squirrel, her body strong and graceful after almost twelve years of gymnastics. Before everything had fallen apart, the gymnastics center had been a place she excelled, a thing she'd been good at, besides giving her parents headaches of course. But when Katie died, her joy on the uneven bars soured. Her parents stopped cheering at meets. Her coach's eyes had gone from hard and proud to soft and sympathetic. And worst of all, the other girls had begun to fall silent when she joined them, tense and awkward and just like every other goddamn person who'd heard the sob-story of the Mason family.

That was until Eliza had provoked one of them into a fight, of course.

Being kicked off the gymnastics team hadn't been quite as satisfying as she'd hoped it would be.

Arcing her body like a dancer, Eliza threw her leg over the fence and dropped cat-like to the other side. She landed in the grass and tensed, waiting for the lights to swoop down on her or an alarm to wail in the night. But the only sound was the hum of blood through her veins.

She grinned.

Straightening, Eliza began to jog toward the squat shape of the lab building in the distance. She could see the shadows of guards as they marched around the perimeter, but it was almost midnight. Everyone knew that the bulk of the Fitzgerald soldiers went to Howl on Friday nights to dance and drink and blow off steam. It had been a club that Eliza had only barely resisted visiting, knowing that going there would be like lighting a match in a gas station.

But here she was, doing something even worse on a dare from someone she didn't even like.

No time to think about that now, Eliza thought as she pressed her slender, muscled body against the wall of an equipment shed, waiting for the two blurry shadows to pass under the spotlights.

Fitzgerald Base was laid out in a series of rings around a central point. Barracks and mess halls and gear barns orbited the lab building like planets around a sun, all of them drawn in by the huge, square building in the middle. And Eliza could see why. Where the other parts of the encampment were casual, open, maybe even relaxed, the behemoth in the middle was a fortress. No windows. No decorations. Lights coating every surface. Probably pressure sensors and infrared scanners too. Eliza could only imagine the kind of security it would have inside.

What the hell are they doing in there, she wondered, glaring at the flat concrete side of the building.

But she'd seen enough movies to know that it was probably better she didn't find out.

Touching her phone in her pocket for comfort, Eliza took a deep breath. Bounced her knees. She waited for the guards to come around again, listening to their soft voices as they drifted through the darkness like wraiths. And then, the moment they'd moved past her, she was off. Sprinting through the grass, sneakers slapping the ground, Eliza flew towards that dull cement wall. She felt exposed and dangerous and vulnerable and free as she ran, arms pumping, breathing heavy. The wall loomed high, shadowing her like a giant monster.

She slammed into it and pressed her hand against the hard cement.

Eliza wasn't sure if Tori was watching, but it didn't matter.

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