“Yeah,” Aubrey said, stepping back to look at him. “You’re so . . . tall.”
Kara looked a little peeved that Aubrey had a connection with Alec, but Aubrey didn’t care. She’d spent the last four days searching for some sign of home, and here was someone right in front of her. Aubrey couldn’t remember much about Alec—it had been a long time—but they’d been friends. They’d been friends back when Aubrey had friends.
“Oh, wow,” she said, feeling happier than she had in a long time. “This is great.”
NICOLE DIDN’T LAST LONG IN the prison. Before the soldiers had even brought in anyone new, Jack watched as two guards and an officer came and took her away.
The cells seemed to be getting colder, though Jack wondered if that was just because he’d never been able to get fully dry. The other Positives couldn’t seem to keep their mouths shut, and the sprinklers were turned on at least twice a day. Jack was able to keep time for the first two days, but eventually water got into his watch and it stopped. He wasn’t sure how many more hours had passed—there were no windows, and the lights were always on—but Jack tried to keep track of how often the guards brought food; he guessed he’d been in his cell about three days.
By his count, three more people had been brought in to the prison and four had been taken away. Eddie and Josi were gone now, but Matt Ganza was there. He hadn’t said a word since he’d been brought in, and he was too far down the row to have a private conversation with Jack.
The boy who had been brought in unconscious never woke up and was carried off by medics.
The only thing that kept Jack’s spirits up was the hope that Aubrey was working on getting him out—maybe trying to get him retested. Part of him doubted it. He didn’t want to doubt. He wanted to sit confidently in his cell, certain that she was harassing the guards day and night.
But she’d abandoned him before.
A metallic clank sounded as the far door opened. The kids still argued, but without the same enthusiasm they’d had before. They’d been here too long, and knew it wasn’t doing any good. The newer prisoners weren’t talkers, and the old ones were tired of getting soaked all the time.
The guards appeared in front of Jack’s cell, putting the new prisoner into Nicole’s former cell. She thanked them, just as Nicole had done, and they left her with a bottle of drugged water.
“Hi,” Jack said, as the girl inspected her tiny cell.
“Hi,” she answered, turning to face him. She was short, probably just over five feet tall, with light blonde hair that fell just to her chin. Like most of the prisoners who’d been brought in, she looked tired.
“I’m Jack,” he said.
“Laura,” she answered.
Another girl from somewhere down the corridor shouted out the same question she did of all new prisoners. “Any news from outside?”
Laura sat down on the concrete cross-legged. She was probably short enough that she could lay flat on the floor, and Jack envied that. “I’ve been in the warehouse for two days,” Laura answered. “No new people have been brought in since last night. The last one to come in said that the TVs aren’t broadcasting anymore. He said that there’s a draft now.”
“Do they know who the terrorists are yet?” Jack asked.
“No,” Laura said, picking up the water bottle and peering at the yellow specks floating in it.
Jack leaned against the cinder-block wall and stared at the ceiling. Could it be that he was actually safer in prison?
“What do you do?” Matt asked. He was in a cell to Jack’s right—Jack couldn’t see him.
Jack looked back at Laura, who seemed surprised by the question.
“What’s your power?” Matt said. “You’re a Positive. That means you can do something.”
“Oh,” Laura said. She balled her small hand into a fist and punched the cement floor. With no more apparent effort than if she was squashing a bug, the cement splintered and cracked.
The corridor suddenly erupted with noise.
“What was that? What did she do?”
“She punched the freaking floor! Like a jackhammer or something.”
“Don’t drink the water! It’ll mess with your head!”
“Get the bars! Get us out of here!”
Laura, with a contented smile on her face, didn’t move. Her eyes met Jack’s, and he moved forward to his door so he could talk over the noise.
“Why don’t you escape?” he said. “Can you break the bars?”
“Probably,” she said, gripping the steel in her hands. “I think so. But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Why not?” someone else shouted. “You could fight your way out.”
The other prisoners yelled in agreement, pleading for her to break them all free, but she shook her head. Jack wondered if Laura was like Aubrey—maybe using her ability too much made her tired. Maybe she knew she couldn’t fight long enough to get free.
“No,” Laura said, still smiling, though obviously overwhelmed by the shouts. “Haven’t you guys been listening to what’s happening out there? Think about it for a minute. What if the army isn’t bad? What if they really are locking us up for our protection?”
A girl somewhere down the corridor screamed, “You haven’t been in here! They wouldn’t treat us like this if they cared about us.”
“But we get out, don’t we?” Laura answered. “They don’t just leave us in these cells, right?”
“I’ve been here for days,” the girl answered. “A week, maybe.”
“But they have to take us somewhere eventually. If I escape, they’ll hunt me. They’ll think I’m a terrorist.”
Another voice called out, “They already think we’re terrorists.”
“So you want me to prove them right?” Laura said. “I break us all out and we run—how many of us will get shot? If I punch an infantryman I’ll kill him, and then what does that make me?”
“What if they dissect us?” Matt asked. “What if they cut every one of us open and find out how we do what we do?”
“They already know how we do it,” Laura insisted. “Do you think they developed that cheek swab test without knowing what they’re testing for?”
Matt didn’t respond, and the room was quiet for a moment. Jack watched Laura’s face as she waited for someone else to say something. She didn’t look angry—she looked confident.
“I’m sorry,” Laura said. “I know you’ve probably been waiting for something like this, someone to get you out of here. But I’m not afraid of the army. In fact, if I don’t cause any trouble—if you guys don’t cause any trouble—then maybe they’ll treat us like people instead of prisoners.”
“They already treat us like prisoners,” someone down the corridor muttered. “And none of us have done anything yet.”
Jack thought about the night at the homecoming dance. If Nate had surrendered instead of attacking, would they have let him live? But what about kicking in Aubrey’s door and tackling a teenage girl to the ground? That wasn’t a military that trusted them. No one was giving them the benefit of the doubt.