chapter sixteen

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two weeks later

   It was damp outside, making the black combat boots I was wearing sink into the soil a bit deeper than they usually would. I lowered myself down onto my belly and propped the heel of the rifle I held firmly against my shoulder. My figure was masked by the tree I laid behind and the dark green flannel-like shirt I wore.

My eyes scanned across everything that surround me, careful not to miss anything. My eyes went past a tree as the leaves moved, causing me to freeze. I lifted my hand into a fist, signaling to the people behind me that I'd found something. I listened, my head perking up a bit higher over the log to get a better visual. My eyes fell down to the bottom of the tree, noticing the heel of someone's boot peeking out slightly. At that, I swiftly and quietly lifted myself from the ground and turned on my toes, aiming the gun where I'd seen the target.

I moved to the right and pointed the gun. "Bang," I announced, lifting the gun as if the nonexistent bullet I'd fired caused a kickback. "You're dead." I lowered the gun and let a grin consume my face. "And that's how many wins for my team now?" I mocked.

Liam shook his head down at me, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "That's cause you cheat," he excused.

"I did not cheat, actually. And even if I did, it wouldn't be cheating, it would be using my resources," I explained, turning back and beckoning for the rest of my team to leave their hidden positions since Liam, the captain of the other team, had been killed.

"You two are something else," a boy spoke up, shaking his head at Liam and I before pressing his fingers to his lips and letting out a loud whistle. "That's enough training for today. Good job, guys. Pack it up and move out, I'm hungry."

   "How was the training session with Clancy? You two seem to be getting close." I looked over to Ruby, a smirk growing on my face.

   Her cheeks tinted pink as her head shook. "He's just helping me figure out my abilities and how to control them better. That's it, nothing else is going on, Emily," she assured. "It's been getting easier, like you said, though. How was yours?"

   "Well, I'm happy to report that Liam and his team got their asses handed to them again," I grinned, giving the girl a high-five. I sat down on the bed, letting out a comfortable sigh before grabbing a water bottle and taking a few sips. "All the shit we've been through . . . it feels like this place is too good to be true. Y'know?" She nodded, understanding what I meant. I could tell she'd thought over that possibility more than once, just like I had.

   "If it is too good to be true, I think we should take what we can get until it all goes to hell," she proposed.

I chuckled as I twisted the cap back onto the bottle. "I'll agree to that."

   As we finished our conversation, Liam walked into the cabin and sent us both a small smile. "You bragging about winning again, Em? Being that conceited can't be healthy," he teased.

"Maybe if you actually won once in a while I wouldn't need to brag," I countered, poking his cheek with the end of the water bottle.

A grin emerged on Ruby's face as she tried to stifle a chuckle. "She's not wrong." The girl let out a huff. "Well, I'm gonna go see what Chubs is up to. Maybe help out a bit." She sent us a wave as she left the cabin. "See you guys later."

   "Bye, Ruby," we chorused.

   "So, what do you have planned for the next day or so?" Liam asked as he slipped off the shirt he wore and replaced it with a clean one.

   Mike had no idea where to assign me for work, so Clancy determined that since I was capable of different things due to my abilities, I could work different jobs every few days. The boy had me come to his office twice before, but nothing major came of it. He was mainly interested in what I was capable of doing and if I was able to complete the same tasks he could as an orange—which I could. Clancy wanted me to come back tomorrow to see if there was anything else, although I persisted that it wasn't necessary.

"Clancy wants me to come to his office tomorrow." I shake my head a bit, showing that it wasn't a big deal. "I don't think he realizes I don't need help with the orange thing like Ruby does. But who knows? Maybe I'll learn something new."

Liam was quiet for a moment, as if he were thinking of a way to word something he was about to voice. I raised an expectant eyebrow at the blue, silently telling him to be out with it.

"You ever feel like there's something off about that guy?" Liam sat down, leaning his elbows on his knees. "Like—like this whole thing is weird to me. And don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to be somewhere safe for once...but it seems—"

"Too good to be true," I finished for him, already looking up to meet his eyes. I nodded slowly. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Chubs said something about it, too. We get up, go work, then go back to sleep. Besides it being a lot prettier and colorful, how is this any different than the camps?"

Liam let out a soft sigh, thinking over my words for a moment. "It's not."

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