Chapter 1

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"Subject 801..."

Eli's senses came to him in meager waves, barely lapping at the walls of his mind. A brief moment of acute discomfort and fatigue. A cold, metallic surface quickly kissing his spine. Calm, feminine voices falling like sand between his fingers—vanishing like crumbs in the sea breeze.

"...cognitive abnormalities..."

He strained against the paralysis of his ligaments and the heavy weight of his eyelids, but he had no power over his own functionality. In this dream, he had no will of his own.

"Reboot initiated."

Reboot?

His consciousness clasped tight to the word, but he could feel the gentle pool of senses draining around him and leaching into the soils of oblivion.

"Sleep well, 801."


Eli jerked awake, startled by the sudden rumble of footsteps and backpack zippers as his fellow students poured out of the lecture hall

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Eli jerked awake, startled by the sudden rumble of footsteps and backpack zippers as his fellow students poured out of the lecture hall.

Shit.  He'd fallen asleep in class.  Again.

He watched his economics professor hurry out the door, and he turned to the girl beside him—the one who always arrived fifteen minutes early so she could claim her unassigned assigned seat.

"Uh...did he say what the next assignment was?" he asked, sheepish.

The blond shot him a pitying look. "Chapter seven and the online modules."

"Right. Thanks."

She stared at him a beat longer, biting her lip to keep her comments inside.  He raised his brow. "...What?"

She awkwardly pointed to her chin. "You've got a bit of drool."

Flushing, Eli hastily wiped his mouth, and the blond left him to his own eternal chaos. He stuffed his blank notebook back in his bag with a miserable moan.

How he'd survived this long was a mystery.

It wasn't like college was a bad experience—it certainly trumped high school. Eli actually loved the majority of his classes, and of course, the complete and utter freedom to fail in all walks of life. It was a strange existence, living in that period between teenage mutant and certified adult. People still treated him like a child.   At least until he fucked up. Then he was just an irresponsible young man.

He wasn't sure what they expected when they'd sent him off to college with absolutely no life skills—fully aware of the anxieties, economic limitations, and alcoholic underground he was about to encounter.   But he was trying his damnedest to succeed, and he figured that had to be worth something.

Probably.

He slid on his headphones and made his way out of the business building. The sun was high in the sky, and Eli angled his head to feel the warmth seep into his vitamin-D deficient pores.

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